Hawaii's Kilauea volcano just erupted, forcing evacuations in residential areas

Hawaii's Kilauea volcano just erupted, forcing evacuations in residential areas

The Pacific island state's governor David Ige signed an emergency proclamation releasing disaster funds to the Big Island in the eruption's wake, as local news footage showed streams of lava snaking through forested areas near Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes in the world.

Residents in the Puna communities of Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens subdivisions, home to about 1,700 people, were ordered to evacuate after public works officials reported steam and lava spewing from a crack, according to the county's Civil Defense Agency. In particular, Hawaii suffered a magnitude 5.0 quake on Thursday morning that likely triggered the lava flows hours later.

"It's a situation worth monitoring very closely", she said.

The Big Island has at least four active volcanoes, with Kilauea the most active.

"It sounded like if you were to put a bunch of rocks into a dryer and turn it on as high as you could", he told Honolulu television station KOHN.

Many residents were prepared for the evacuation after earthquakes slammed the lower Puna area, putting homeowners on high alert before the eruption even occurred.

There have also been hundreds of earthquakes this week, including a magnitude 5.3 temblor on Friday.

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Another Leilani Estates resident, Petra Wiesenbauer, told KHON, "Each event that's happening right now these days is something new". "You know what's going on; we have warning systems".

Hawaii County Fire Department reports that extremely high levels of risky sulfur dioxide gas have been detected in the evacuation area affected by recent volcanic activity. "I have also activated the Hawai'i National Guard to support county emergency response teams with evacuations and security", said Gov. Ige. Officials said the earthquakes were caused by a collapse of the Puu Oo crater floor on Kilauea's east rift zone.

Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency closed the area to visitors on Tuesday and ordered private tour companies to stop taking people into the region. Located along the southern shore of the island, the volcano is between 300,000 and 600,000 years old and emerged above sea level about 100,000 years ago.

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.

"Hawaiians and local people have lived here forever", she said.

Law enforcement sources tell Hawaii News Now that lava is being spotted in the community, including seeping out of cracks in the road.