USA issues red alert for Hawaii volcanic eruption

16 May, 2018, 14:11 | Author: Sheila Harris
  • Lava shoots into the night sky from active fissures on the lower east rift of Kilauea Volcano on Tuesday near Pahoa

A plume of ash from the Kilauea volcano rose 12,000 feet into the air before dropping ash on sections of the Big Island of Hawaii, prompting officials Tuesday to warn residents to stay indoors and airplanes to stay away from the area.

Lava erupts from a fissure on the outskirts of Pahoa during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii on May 14, 2018.

The plume also signifies that residents of the Big Island "need to expect that it will become more explosive", Rick Hazlett of the USGS told ABC News.

Volcanic air pollution and ashfall have been reported in Pahala, and National Weather Service radar and pilots have reported the top of the volcano's ash cloud is 10,000 to 12,000 feet above sea level.

The Hawaii Fire Department issued a "condition red" alert on Monday because fissures in the southeast area of the Lanipuna Gardens area were issuing high levels of sulfur dioxide.

USGS warns the volcano can become more explosive with little warning. Ash has been rising almost continuously from the vent and drifting downwind to the southwest.

Lava shoots into the night sky from active fissures on the lower east rift of the Kilauea Volcano on Tuesday near Pahoa
Lava shoots into the night sky from active fissures on the lower east rift of the Kilauea Volcano on Tuesday near Pahoa

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has a team in place on the Big Island, said it would assist the state with at least 75 percent of emergency measures and replacing damaged infrastructure.

Few insurance companies will issue policies for homes in Leilani Estates because it is in an area deemed by the US Geological Survey to have a high risk of lava.

A spokesman from the National Guard told AP on Tuesday morning almost 20 fissures had opened on the volcano and lava was spewing towards a major highway. "This is a serious situation that affects the entire exposed population". For almost two weeks lava has erupted daily from newly formed fissures - now at 21 outbreaks-since May 3 in the community of lower Puna.

Lava has consumed about two dozen homes near the volcano over the last week and about 2,000 people are evacuated from the danger zone.

There have been no reports of major injuries or death but 2,000 residents of the Leilani Estates in the Puna district were ordered to leave their homes after the fissures first appeared. This is a slowing from 100 yards per hour as it was tracked during the weekend.

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