After first erupting on Thursday, Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano has continued to send molten magma up through the eight fissures that have now opened up in the ground in a part of Hawaii that is home to several ritzy neighborhoods, including the tony Leilani Estates, where residents have been forced to flee as the eruptions, as well as several powerful earthquakes, have destroyed power lines and disrupted and left parts of the surrounding area without water.
One area resident summed up the neighborhood’s plight in a statement to the Los Angeles Times.
“This is as bad as it gets,” said John Bennett, 61, a resident of the Leilani Estates neighborhood forced to evacuate. “We can’t go back in yet. I feel lost. I don’t know what to think. I’ve never been in this situation before.”
The estimated 1,800 people who live in the affected area have sought temporary respite in government shelters. Others have moved in friends on other islands.
At least nine house have been destroyed in Leilani Estates a the fissures have continued to spew lava through the lower Puna subdivision, according to the Honolulu Star Advertiser.
Some have said they don’t know whether the pets that they left behind will survive the natural disaster, according to the Washington Post.
Bennett, the man quoted above, said the eruption took him by surprise. He first learned what was happening when he came home Thursday and noticed that a fissure had opened up in his front yard.
Bennett’s wife Roberta, an assistant librarian at Kamehameha Schools on the island of Hawaii, was away on Oahu when the magma started flowing, but she quickly flew back with their son Keoni, 29. The family stayed in the house until Friday, when they were forced to leave because of the magma flows.
“Thursday night we saw the glow of lava about a half-mile away from our house,” Bennett said. “The next day we packed and left with our three dogs.The reason we left was the air quality was so bad, with a strong sulfuric smell coming out of the ground.”
Bennett, who works as a company that transports gas, diesel and jet fuel around the island, told the LA Times they have been staying with friends in Hilo on the Big Island.
“We’re strong. I’ve got my wife, my son is back in Honolulu. I think my house is still standing. I heard that four homes have been destroyed.”
Two new cracks in the ground began spewing lava from the volcano Saturday, emitting a toxic gas that further compounded the danger to residents, according to USGS.
Active eruption of lava and gas continues along Kīlauea Volcano’s lower East Rift Zone within the Leilani Estates subdivision. Additional fissure vents producing spatter and small lava flows developed early this morning, and additional outbreaks in the area are likely. Deflationary tilt at the summit of the volcano continues and the lava lake level continues to drop. There is no active lava in the Puʻu ʻŌʻō area. Aftershocks from yesterday’s M6.9 earthquake continue and more should be expected, with larger aftershocks potentially producing rockfalls and associated ash clouds above Puʻu ʻŌʻō and Halemaʻumaʻu Crater.
By late Saturday afternoon local time, magma was only flowing through fissure No. 7 – but that fissure alone was producing enough lava to continue threatening the surrounding area, said USGS volcano scientist Wendy Stovall.
Since the eruption Thursday, quakes have been shaking the island at regular intervals. The island has also endured two particularly large quakes: A 5.6-magnitude quake hit south of the volcano, which was followed by a 6.9 magnitude quake.
The latter quake was felt as far away as Oahu, and it also struck in nearly the exact same place as a deadly 7.4-magnitude earthquake in 1975.
What’s worse, the gas flowing up through the fissures is making the area even more hazardous to people living in the area.
“The sulfur dioxide gas is very intense” and a “dangerous hazard in the area,” Stovall said. “This is a continually evolving situation.”
Videos posted on social media showed plates crashing the ground as the floor.
— Allison (@Allieb1792) May 5, 2018
The quakes also forced the closure of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park after some of the trails were damaged. The first quake triggered a cliff to collapse into the ocean near the Jaggar Museum.
Park officials said they canceled all tours Friday afternoon and evacuated about 2,600 tourists from the area.
“Safety is our main priority at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, and it is currently not safe to be here,” park superintendent Cindy Orlando said in a statement. “We will monitor the situation closely, and reopen when it is safe to do so.”
Geologists from the USGS said the quakes around Puna most closely resemble the events that precipitated a 1955 eruption. That eruption lasted about three months and left almost 4,000 acres of land covered in lava.