AUTHORITIES say Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano is going to erupt “imminently” as ash shot into the air and engulfed the island in toxic gas today.
A thick plume of grey smoke has risen several thousand feet above the volcano’s summit while rockfalls and lava continue to spew from the cracks.
People stare in awe at the huge ash cloud as it rose several thousand feet in the air above the volcano’s summit[/caption]
The United States Geological Survey increased the alert warning to red, meaning that a major explosion is “imminent, underway or suspected with hazardous conditions both on the ground and in the air”.
A USGS spokesperson said: “As of early this morning, eruption of ash from the Overlook vent within Halemaumau crater at Kilauea Volcano’s summit has generally increased in intensity.
“Ash has been rising nearly continuously from the vent and drifting downwind to the southwest.
“At any time, activity may become more explosive, increasing the intensity of ash production and producing ballistic projectiles near the vent.”
They said that ashfall and volcanic air pollution, also known as vog, had been reported 18 miles away in Pahala.
Radar and pilot reports indicate the top of the ash cloud is as high as 12,000ft above sea level.
For the first time in the 12-day eruption, residents received text messages from county officials warning them the ash could cause eye and breathing irritation.
It said: “Excessive exposure can cause eye/breathing irritation. Motorists advised to drive with caution.”
The ash threatened Ka’u district, which is about 30 miles south west of the volcano, while toxic gas added to the danger facing residents, whose escape routes are threatened with closure because of lava flows, officials said.
Dangerous levels of sulfur dioxide gas and other emissions prompted state health officials to urge residents to stay indoors or leave the eastern end of Hawaii’s Big Island, which has been ravaged by volcanic activity since May 3.
A 20th fissure releasing lava and gases has opened on Kilauea’s side, state officials said on Tuesday.
This 1,000 feet long crack was discovered early on Sunday morning[/caption]
Loud explosions rocked the neighbourhood when lava exploded into the air[/caption]
The ‘fissure’ is a large crack in the earth dangerously close to the massive volcano[/caption]
MOST READ IN NEWS
The eruption has already destroyed 37 homes and other buildings, with the island’s lower Puna area hit especially hard as lava ripped through farmland.
Officials have ordered around 2,000 residents to evacuate the Leilani Estates area in the eastern Puna district where fissures first appeared, but so far no one has been ordered to leave the Ka’u district.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has a team in place on the Big Island, said it would assist the state with at least 75 percent of emergency measures and replacing damaged infrastructure.
More to follow…
For the latest news on this story keep checking back at Sun Online.
Thesun.co.uk is your go to destination for the best celebrity news, football news, real-life stories, jaw-dropping pictures and must-see video.