May 4 (UPI) — A series of powerful earthquakes up to 6.9-magnitude shook the Big Island of Hawaii on Friday, prompting multiple volcanic eruptions that have destroyed two homes.
There have been five eruptions from two fissures in the Kilauea volcano, the most recent spewing lava and rocks between 80 feet and 100 feet into the air at the Leilani Estates subdivision. The strongest quake Friday happened at 12:32 p.m., data from the U.S. Geological Survey indicated. There was a 5.4-magnitude temblor about an hour earlier and several others up to 4.9 on the Richter scale.
Hawaii Gov. David Ige signed an emergency proclamation late Thursday following the initial eruption of the Kilauea volcano.
The subdivision, with about 770 structures, is under a mandatory evacuation and residents are being sheltered at a community center, the governor’s office said.
“The danger is of such magnitude that it warrants preemptive and protective action in order to provide for the safety, health and welfare of the residents of Leilani Estates and surrounding areas,” Ige said.
The Hawaii County Civil Defense warned residents in the subdivision the situation is so dire that emergency workers may not be able to aid those who refuse to evacuate.
A 4.6-magnitude earthquake shook Hawaii Thursday morning, causing rockfalls and a possible collapse in the crater of the Kilauea’s Puu O’o vent, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said.
A cloud of pink ash and smoke billowed into the air after the quake, as officials warned residents along the east rift zone to prepare to evacuate — ahead of a major eruption that could come with very little warning.
The Hawaii Volcano Observatory said more lava outbreaks were a possibility.
“The opening phases of fissure eruptions are dynamic and uncertain. It is not possible at this time to say when and where new vents may occur,” the agency said. “Areas downslope of an erupting fissure or vent are at risk of lava inundation. At this time, the general area of the Leilani subdivision appears at greatest risk.”
“The state is actively supporting the county’s emergency response efforts. I have also activated the Hawaii National Guard to support county emergency response teams with evacuations and security,” Ige said.
The Hawaii Fire Department said late Thursday extremely high levels of dangerous sulfur dioxide gas was detected in the evacuation area.
“Elderly, young, and people with respiratory issues need to comply with the mandatory evacuation order and leave the area,” Ige said. “Residents evacuating should ensure to bring your emergency evacuation supply kit including necessary medicine, food, and necessary items for your comfort if possible.”