Hawaii volcano may spark more eruptions

Reuters
New fissures roaring like jet engines and spewing magma have opened on Hawaii's Kilauea volcano, as the US Geological Survey warned that more outbreaks were likely.
Reuters

New fissures roaring like jet engines and spewing magma have opened on Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano, piling lava as high as a four-story building as the US Geological Survey warned that more outbreaks were likely.

A crack in pasture land on Kilauea’s east flank was the 16th recorded since the US volcano, one of the world’s most active, erupted eight days ago. Thousands of people have fled their homes on Big Island and dozens of homes have been destroyed.

The new fissure opened up on Saturday about 1.6 kilometers east of the existing vent system that has devastated the island’s Leilani Estates neighborhood, close to several homes on the edge of the field.

“It’s right by my house, which is kind of scary,” said Haley Clinton, 17, who walked to see the new crack with her father, Darryl, and sister Jolon, 15.

From afar, the fissure gave off dull, thumping roars that sharpened on approach to a scream from venting steam and gas, mixed with the slapping sounds of liquid lava.

Within hours of opening, the fissure had piled reddish-black lava about 12 meters high and at least 45 meters in length. Chunks of magma were being spewed 30 meters in the air.

The intense heat left onlookers drenched with sweat, and the air was filled with an acrid, burned scent. But with billowing gas and smoke blowing in the opposite direction, there was no pungent smell of toxic sulfur dioxide in the air.

Shortly after the fissure opened, the Geological Survey’s Hawaii Volcano Observatory said seismic activity remained “elevated” at Kilauea’s 1,200-meter-high summit. The USGS said a shallow but small earthquake with a magnitude of 3.5 hit the island on Saturday.

Geologists warned on Friday that a steam-driven eruption from the summit’s Halemaumau crater could spew ash plumes 6,100 meters high and spread ash and debris up to 19 kilometers.

Kilauea’s vents have been oozing relatively cool, sluggish magma left over from a similar event in 1955. Fresher magma could now emerge behind it and the volcano is threatening to start a series of explosive eruptions, scientists have said.

As the area affected by Kilauea’s eruption widens, Hawaii residents are racing to buy respirators to cope with the ash and toxic gases spewing from the volcano.

David Baxter, 54, an employee of Pahoa Auto Parts, said the shop was selling out of respirators as soon as they get in and had sold about 3,000 so far. The shop was all out on Saturday.

“We pretty much bought up every (respirator) in the state, and we are selling them at cost — actually, a slight loss,” said Baxter. “We need to breathe.”


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