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Explosions from Hawaii volcano force the evacuation of 2,000 residents

The volcano discharged the ash yesterday because of rocks falling into the summit.

Lava shoots into the night sky from active fissures on the lower east rift of the Kilauea volcano, near Pahoa, Hawaii.
Lava shoots into the night sky from active fissures on the lower east rift of the Kilauea volcano, near Pahoa, Hawaii.
Image: Caleb Jones

A PLUME OF volcanic ash lingered over the Kilauea volcano today, prompting more warnings for pilots to avoid the mountain a day after it spewed ash 12,000 feet into the air, scientists said.

The plume is separate from the lava eruptions happening about 25 miles (40 kilometres) away from summit, where about 20 lava fissures have destroyed more than two dozen homes and forced the evacuation of about 2,000 residents.

The volcano discharged the ash yesterday because of rocks falling into the summit, US Geological Survey geophysicist Mike Poland said.

“There is very little wind at the summit,” he said.

The plume, it’s not near as ashy as it was yesterday, and it’s rising more or less vertically over the summit region.

Because of the ash, USGS scientists operated from a backup command center at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

Poland did not have an immediate height on the plume today since scientists were not staffing the observatory at the summit. They will have to rely on remote observations, he said.

“Things seem to be progressing largely as they have been, except for a shift in wind and less ash,” Poland said.

Scientists remained on alert for more violent activity. Geologists have warned that the summit could have a separate explosive steam eruption that would hurl huge rocks and ash miles into the sky. But it’s not certain when or if that might happen.

For those on the ground near the lava vents, health warnings were issued because of dangerous volcanic gases.

An air-quality alert was in effect for an area near the Lanipuna Gardens subdivision. That area was evacuated shortly after the eruption began 3 May.

Most fissures are in that subdivision or the adjoining Leilani Estates neighborhood.

Several fissures remained active today, producing lava spatter. Lava from one fissure that had been clearing a path toward the ocean, about 2 miles (3 kilometres) away, had not advanced in the last 24 hours.

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Associated Press

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