Flying Lava Bombs From Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano Could Spark Mass Evacuation

Frederick Owens
May 16, 2018

Since Kilauea started erupting nearly two weeks ago, the lava has scorched more than 40 structures.

A lava flow moves down slope on Hawaii's Big Island.

Recently one of the craters of the volcano began to flow out lava into the local region after the lava levels inside the crater dropped significantly on May 2.

The booking pace for hotels and other activities, such as tours for lava viewing, zip lines and glass bottom boats have fallen by 50 per cent.

Several residents in the area told Hawaii News Now they were suffering from headaches, sore throats, and watery eyes due to the ash.

This is the "first leak we're seeing out of the bucket", Birch said.

One of the early hallmarks of this month's lava eruptions on Hawaii's Big Island was that the molten rock, though it destroyed homes and roads, generally didn't often ooze very far. The industry grew the fastest on the Big Island previous year compared to other islands in the archipelago, pulling in about $2.5 billion in visitor spending. Areas near the volcano have been evacuated but the Hawaii Volcano National Park remains open.

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United States Geological Survey is concerned pent-up steam could cause a violent explosive eruption at the volcano crater, launching a 6,100-metre plume that could spread debris over 19 kilometers (11.8 miles), Reuters reported.

"It's down to one gravel road, that's what also pushed us over the edge", said Rob Guzman, who with his husband Bob Kirk made a decision to leave their home in the Kalapana Seaview Estates subdivision around 3.5 miles (5.6 km) south of Leilani Estates.

A fissure that opened on Sunday led authorities to order 10 people to flee their homes, Hawaii County managing director Wil Okabe said.

Nearby resident Richard Schott, 34, watched from a police checkpoint as the eruption churned just over a ridgeline and behind some trees. "It's like a nuclear reaction or something".

Lava explosions, known as "spatter bombs", have launched hundreds of feet into the air over the past two days according to the U.S. Geological Survey, as observers documented the opening of the two newest fissures.

Janet Babb, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geologist, said the type of explosions, are "notoriously hard to forecast and can occur with little or no warning".

As a precaution, plant workers last week removed 50,000 gallons of a flammable liquid stored at the site.

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