An evacuation order was enforced on Hawaii’s Big Island on Thursday, May 03 after the eruption of Kilauea Volcano, which disgorged fountains of lava out of the ground and ash into the sky.
Governor David Ige said he has activated the Hawaii National Guard to help with evacuations and enforce security. He tweeted “I urge residents in Leilani Estates and the surrounding areas to follow instructions. … Please be alert and prepare now to keep your family safe,”.
I urge residents in Leilani Estates and the surrounding areas to follow instructions from the County of Hawai‘i’s Civil Defense Agency. Please be alert and prepare now to keep your family safe. @USGSVolcanoes#Kilauea
The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said the lava flow affected a residential area, including Leilani Estates, which is a subdivision in the lower East Rift Zone of the volcano. The Hawaii County Civil Defense evacuated residents of Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens to two emergency shelters that were opened to take in evacuees.
Cindy McMillan, the governor’s spokesperson, said that around 1,700 people in the Leilani Estates area are covered by the mandatory evacuation order.
Resident Ikaika Marzo went on Hawaii News Now and said that he saw “fountains” of lava as high as 125 feet. Other residents also reported that they heard tree branches snapping and smelled burning brush. Drone footage from the news station also showed lava, which can reach temperatures of about 2,100 degrees (F), burning down trees in its path.
According to the Civil Defense Agency, the Hawaii Fire Department reported extremely high levels of sulfur dioxide gas within the evacuation area.
Kilauea, one of five volcanoes on the island, is one of the world’s most active volcanoes. It has been erupting nearly continuously for over three decades. The United States Geological Survey said lava flows from the volcano have already covered an area up to 48 square miles.
Since April 30, hundreds of minor earthquakes have been recorded within the area and came after the collapse of a crater floor of Puʻu ʻŌʻō, a volcanic cone in the eastern rift zone of the Kilauea Volcano.
The Puna Geothermal Plant has been shut down, while crews from Hawaii Electric Light have disconnected power within areas affected by the active lava flow.
No injuries or fatalities from the volcanic eruption were recorded as of this writing.