Hawaii volcano threatens to cut off more residents

Hawaii volcano threatens to cut off more residents

Hawaii volcano threatens to cut off more residents

The Hawaiian County Civil Defense Agency said rock falls and gas explosions from one of the craters on Kilauea had caused the ash plume which was drifting downwind to the southwest.

This photo from the U.S. Geological Survey shows activity at Halema'uma'u Crater that has increased to include the almost continuous emission of ash with intermittent stronger pulses at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the island of Hawaii at around 9 a.m. Tuesday, May 15, 2018. This is a serious situation that affects the entire exposed population.

Leilani Estates residents will still be allowed to check on their property from 7 a.m.to 6 p.m. each day until further notice, conditions permitting.

With members of the National Guard in the foreground, volcanic gases rise from active fissures near Pahoa, Hawaii.

Hawaii transportation officials are working to reopen a highway that was closed along a 2-mile (3-kilometer) stretch over fears that cracks in the road could be related to lava fissure activity.

Ormat Technologies, which owns a geothermal energy plant in the area, said there was a low risk of lava impacting the facility. Officials say no homes or roads are threatened by the lava flow advancing at a rate of about 20 yards (18 meters) per hour.

Since Kilauea began erupting on May 3, almost 2,000 people have been ordered to evacuate as 18 giant fissures ripped through the area, including two new ones that opened on Sunday with ear-piercing screeches that sent lava and rocks flying.

Coombs said the fissure had diminished in intensity, but officials said activity can go up just as quickly as it goes down.

Two new fissures are small with not much lava coming from them, she said. "When the sulfur dioxide hit my lungs once, it took my breath away".

Officials ordered the closure of all parks in the area and, for the safety of visitors, all inns and vacation rentals must also shut down.

The agency says one "unidentified structure" was destroyed by the new vent, bringing the total number of homes and other buildings lost to lava to almost 40. So far, at least 37 structures have been destroyed, and counting.

The warning from the United States Geological Survey (USGS) means a major volcano eruption is "imminent, under way or suspected with hazardous conditions both on the ground and in the air".

But it will be hard to warn residents who may be in the path of such an eruption.

"It's optimistic to think that this is the last fissure we're going to see", said Hawaiian Volcano Observatory Deputy Scientist-In-Charge Steve Brantley.

Plane flights to Hawaii are largely unaffected and operating normally, though a number of airlines have waived change fees for flights to the state, USA Today reported.

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