Volcano Erupts in Hawaii, Sending Lava Bursting Through The Ground

Photo: Janice Wei

Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano erupted Thursday, sending lava bursting through the ground. This eruption prompted mandatory evacuations for thousands of residents on the Big Island.

The eruption occurred in Leilani Estates, a residential neighborhood in the lower Puna district of the Big Island. Residents had been told to remain alert, as hundreds of earthquakes and increased seismic activity since Monday had heightened the possibility of an eruption.

Just a few hours before the lava outbreak, a magnitude 5.0 earthquake shook the island, sending a huge plume of pink ash into the air.

On Friday morning, another, even larger quake struck the island

At a magnitude 5.4, it was the largest quake yet to strike the island in the recent days. Located roughly a kilometer below ground level, it did not generate a tsunami, according to the USGS.

A fourth and fifth lava fissure also opened in Leilani Estates Friday morning, according to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

On Monday, the floor of one of Kilauea’s volcanic vents collapsed. This caused magma to travel underground until it finally burst through a crack in Leilani Estates.

The Hawaii County Civil Defense ordered thousands of residents in the surrounding area to evacuate.

The American Red Cross in Hawaii

The American Red Cross said it opened a shelter in nearby Pahoa for residents evacuating. The Hawaii County Civil Defense said Keaau Community Center was also to be opened for additional shelter needs.

People not in the evacuation zone were urged to avoid traveling to the area.

The local utility company is planning to shut down during the evacuation order. “We expect to have sufficient power”, they said, in light of the evacuation.

Fountains of Lava

Michael Hale, who lives and runs a vacation rental business just two blocks from the lava explosion, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that the experience had made him question what’s important.

“I looked around and asked myself ‘what’s valuable?'” Hale said about the minutes before he evacuated. “In that moment, nothing looked valuable. I filled the [truck] cab with mostly junk and that was it.”

Lower Puna resident Ikaika Marzo said in a Facebook Live video about the event that he saw fountains of lava about 150 feet high.

“Tons of lava coming out — it sounds like a jet engine,” he said. “It’s going hard.”

“There are a lot of elderly people who are trying to find a place to go and need help to get their stuff out,” Marzo said.

Leilani Estates has a population of just over 1,500, according to the 2010 US census.

Gov. David Ige declared a state of emergency for Hawaii’s Big Island and activated the state National Guard to help with the emergency response.