Volcanic eruption endangers homes, lives in Hawaii

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ByJonathan Bloom KGO logo
Saturday, May 5, 2018
Volcanic eruption endangers homes, lives in Hawaii
Neighbors watched as the Earth split open and chunks of lava flew into the air.

LEILANI ESTATES, Hawaii (KGO) -- Neighbors watched as the earth split open and chunks of lava flew into the air when a volcano erupted in Hawaii on Thursday.

"All we heard was a boom. What is that? And then all of a sudden, we smelled the sulfur," one resident told a reporter as they stood watching lava spring from the ground. "So this fissure is opening up and this is our next eruption."

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Nature is a powerful force, as thousands evacuate in this island paradise. "Is the house still gonna be there when we get back over there? It might be," said one man as he packed his things.

"The loss of their home is more than just a loss of a place to live. This is their lifestyle," Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim said.

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The volcanic activity is happening along the southern edge of the Big Island, close to Volcanoes National Park. It's a safe distance away from Kona and its airport, where flights are currently unaffected. Kilauea, the big volcano whose open crater draws thousands of tourists, has experienced quite a bit of activity during this eruption, but the lava that's coming out of the ground and flowing out of the national park is emanating from another volcano, called Pu'u 'O'o, which became active in the 1980s.

That lava is flowing toward populated areas including Leilani Estates, where at least three eruptive fissures have formed in the streets. In the middle of a densely populated subdivision, lava is shooting out of the ground and forcing the evacuations of at least 1,500 people. "The lava is gonna come out of the ground at 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. It's gonna cause brush fires," said Ed Teixeira, an emergency management consultant who's an expert on volcanic emergencies.

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He said those fires bring noxious gases that could mean more evacuations. "We gotta watch for the weather developments, which way the wind is going," he said.

On Friday, the US Geological Survey reported a preliminary magnitude 5.4 earthquake hit the island, followed by an even bigger one a few hours later. There could be more seismic activity as the eruption continues.