After a 5.0 earthquake on the Big Island of Hawaii, the Kilauea volcano erupted on Thursday sending lava shooting into the air and causing residential neighborhoods to flee under mandatory evacuation orders.
Hawaii County reported that steam and lava poured out of a crack in Leilani Estates, which is near the town of Pahoa on the Big Island. Local news footage showed lava gushing into the sky from a crack in the road. Drone footage shows a line of lava snaking it’s way through a forest.
Jeremiah Osuna an evacuated resident captured drone footage of the lava burning through the trees, a scene he described as a “curtain of fire.”
“It sounded like if you were to put a bunch of rocks into a dryer and turn it on as high as you could. You could just smell sulfur and burning trees and underbrush and stuff,” he told Honolulu television station KHON.
It has been reported that lava fountains were shooting 150 feet into the air and molten lava spread out over an area of 200 years wide behind one house in Leilani Estates.
Big Island resident Ikaika Marzo told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, “It sounds like a jet engine. It’s going hard.”
County, state and federal officials warned residents all week that they should be prepared to evacuate, as an eruption would give little warning. Officials at the U.S. Geological Survey on Thursday raised the volcano’s alert level to “warning status,” the highest possible, meaning a hazardous eruption is imminent, underway or suspected. The state also mobilized the Hawaii National Guard to assist with evacuations.
Community centers nearby have opened for shelter. Ranson Yoneda, the recreation director for a Pahoa community center, was getting the gymnasium ready for evacuees after it was selected as a Red Cross evacuation center.
The U.S. Geological Survey said new ground cracks were reported Thursday afternoon. Hot vapor emerged from a crack and spattering lava began to erupt.
The eruption comes after days of earthquakes rattled the area’s Puna district. A nearby school was closed due to the ongoing seismic activity and several roadways cracked under the strain of the constant temblors.
The Puu Oo crater floor began to collapse Monday, starting a series of earthquakes and pushing the lava into new underground chambers.
In the past, most of Kilauea’s activity has been nonexplosive, but a 1924 eruption spewed ash and 10-ton rocks into the sky, leaving one man dead.
Puu Oo’s 1983 eruption caused lava fountains to soar over 1,500 feet high. In the decades since, the lava flow has buried dozens of square miles of land and destroyed many homes.