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Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano erupts, forcing evacuations

HAWAII: The Kilauea Volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island came to life on Thursday, belching ash into the sky and spewing fountains of lava in a residential area where people were ordered to leave their homes, officials said.

The eruption occurred after a series of earthquakes on the island over the last couple of days, including a 5.0 tremor at about 10:30 a.m., the U.S. Geological Survey reported on its website.

Residents in the Puna community of Leilani Estates, home to about 1,700 people, were ordered to evacuate after public works officials reported steam and lava emissions from a crack at about 4:30 p.m. local time, according to media and the county’s Civil Defense Agency.

 

Resident Ikaika Marzo told Hawaii News Now that he saw “fountains” of lava as high as 125 feet (38 m). Other residents also told the news network that they smelled burning brush and heard tree branches snapping.

Footage from a drone aired on the Hawaii News Now website showed lava incinerating trees as it crept near structures.

Two emergency shelters were opened to take in evacuees, the Civil Defense Agency said.

Governor David Ige tweeted that he had activated the Hawaii National Guard to provide help in the emergency response.

“Please be alert and prepare now to keep your family safe,” he said on Twitter to residents living near the volcano.

A plume of red ash rose from the volcano’s Pu’u ‘O’o vent high into the sky over the island, according to photos on social media.

The Puna Geothermal plant was shutting down, according to local media, while Hawaii Electric Light said crews were disconnecting power in the areas impacted by the active lava flow.

The Kilauea Volcano has been erupting nearly continuously for more than three decades. Lava flows from the volcano, one of five on the island, have covered 48 square miles (125 sq km), according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The leading edge of the lava can reach temperatures of about 2,100 Fahrenheit (1,150 Celsius).

Local officials closed volcano viewing areas while a portion of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was also closed.

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