Mass evacuations possible as Hawaii volcano turns violent


"Steady lowering of lava lake at summit of Kilauea Volcano has raised potential for explosive eruptions in coming weeks", the United States Geological Survey (USGS) warned on Wednesday.

Geologists have warned that Kilauea may be entering a phase of explosive eruptions, the likes of which Hawaii has not seen in almost a century, that could hurl "ballistic blocks" and dust towns with volcanic ash and smog.

The U.S. Geological Survey said Wednesday the risk will rise if the lava drops below the groundwater level beneath the summit's caldera or craterlike basin. The volcano's internal plumbing could still prevent an explosion.

The threat of risky volcanic activity in Hawaii could continue for weeks and violent explosions could occur with "very little warning", the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory cautioned on Wednesday.

The warning comes as volcanologists in Hawaii report a new fissure at the entrance to another residential area on the Big Island, where thousands have already been forced to evacuate. Hawaii's Volcanoes National Park, where Kilauea is located, remains open to tourists, albeit with some restrictions.

Zivile Roditis has spent the last week anxiously watching the Kilauea volcano, belching and churning molten lava into her neighborhood in Leilani Estates.

Should such an explosion occur, officials say the ensuing ash fall and southerly wind patterns would also create a public safety threat.

The explosions could strike Hawaii's Big Island virtually any minute, as long as the Kilauea volcano, which has been erupting since last Thursday, is active, the geologists said. About 50 000 gallons will be moved to Thursday or Friday.

The ongoing surge in volcanic activity on Hawaii's Big Island soon could cause a massive explosion from a volcano's summit, scientists and Hawaii officials warned Wednesday.

The PGV plant has "increasingly threatened" the eruption of Kilauea volcano, authorities said, and Ige noted that the geothermal energy plant was accelerating its removal of stored flammable gas.

"We don't get a volcano forecast of where the eruption or where the next fissure will occur, and once it happens then it really impacts that community very quickly", Governor Ige said.

In the Leilani Estates subdivision, police went door-to-door Tuesday to roust residents near two new volcanic vents emitting unsafe gases in areas where lava has poured into streets and backyards.

That steam likely will simply cook off unless it is blocked by rocks falling from the conduit walls that form a dam, he said.

At the current rate of change, that is about six or seven days away.

That's because a lava lake near the summit of Kilauea is draining, setting the stage for a steam explosion.

Marble-sized rocks, finegrained material and ash would fall on locations within several miles. And the dropped rocks hold that steam in until it blows. If another blast happens, the danger zone could extend about 3 miles (5 kilometers) around the summit, land all inside the national park, Mandeville said.

In any case, the Hawaii County Civil Defense is reporting that all 1,900 people living in the Leilani Estates and Laipuna Garden areas (both around 25 miles east of the volcano) have been evacuated.