Science

Volcanic Activity Forcing Hundreds from Homes in Hawaii Shows No Signs of Ending

Lava advancing on a street
Lava slowly advances after the eruption of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano from a fissure near the Leilani Estates subdivision near Pahoa, Hawaii.
U.S. Geological Survey via Getty Images

Lava flows from the Kilauea volcano, which erupted Thursday, showed no sign of abating Monday as they continued to threaten homes and create hazardous conditions for some residents on Hawaii’s Big Island.

Twenty-six homes in a subdivision on the eastern end of the island had been destroyed by Sunday night, according to the Associated Press, and around 1,800 people were ordered to evacuate their homes. There have been no known reports of injuries.

While many evacuees left to stay with family and friends, around 240 people spent Saturday night at shelters, according to the AP. Any residents who elected to stay in the evacuated area risked high levels of toxic sulfur dioxide, which is the main health threat to residents and which can be particularly dangerous for children, the elderly, and those with respiratory issues. Dozens of residents chose to stay in their homes.

The lava continues to flow and splutter from many fissures in the island—10 had opened by Sunday, according to CNN, though some have quieted—and the lava from the most active fissure consumed a total area of almost 400,000 square feet.

The activity from the Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, began a week ago when its crater floor began to disintegrate, causing a series of earthquakes and pushing magma outward into underground chambers. The molten rock breached the surface Thursday through fissures miles from the summit, and lava began flowing into the subdivision. The eruptions in the original fissures seemed to subside soon after, but the lava continued its flow, and new cracks in the earth opened to emit toxic gases and bursts of lava. On Sunday, Kilauea again saw lava fountains shooting hundreds of feet in the air.

Hawaii’s Civil Defense Administrator told ABC News that there was “no sign of this slowing down.” U.S. Geological Survey volcanologist Wendy Stovall warned that as long as there was magma in the underground chambers, “the eruption will continue.”

According to the Washington Post, scientists said vents further from the primary flow of magma could close, causing jets of lava from the remaining fissures to intensify, possibly reaching up to 1,000 feet. More vents could still open, and those that have gone inactive could roar into life again.

Hundreds of earthquakes also continued to hit the island as a part of the eruption process, with one magnitude-6.9 quake on Friday marking the most intense earthquake in the state for more than four decades, according to USA Today.