Hawaiian Volcano Erupts


Image Courtesy: Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

Emerson Marquez, Staff Writer

Hawaii’s Mt. Kilauea volcano is still erupting, after three weeks since the initial eruptions, conditions in Hawaii are worsening everyday. More than 1,700 people have already evacuated their homes, particularly in the area around Leilani Estates, located in Hawaii’s District of Puna, where 27 homes had been destroyed.

On May 18 the volcano sent a plume of volcanic gas some 10,000 feet (two miles, or 3 km) into the air, according to an alert from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. In addition, a ‘river’ of fast paced lava crossed a road and threatened many homes in the area, prompting the National Guard to airlift residents out of the Puna area.

Image courtesy: CNN
A column of ash billowing out of the Kilauea volcano.

To add, over 23 fissures in the ground have opened up in the area around the volcano, spewing out lava and gas not to far away from highways and residential areas. Authorities handed out almost 18,000 masks due to the ash and toxic gas.

Image courtesy: CNN
Lava flowing form one of the many fissures on the island, may 19.

 The first reported injury since Kilauea erupted (May 3) occured when a man was hit by a lava splatter while standing on his balcony. The man was hit on the leg and shattered everything from the shin down to his foot. A spokeswoman for the Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim, told Reuters that, “[Lava spatters] can weigh as much as a refrigerator and even small pieces of spatter can kill.”  

The lava flow has also reached the ocean which is causing a new hazard: Laze. Laze happens when hot lava meets the ocean, sending a plume of hydrochloric acid and steam, along with fine glass particles into the air. Laze causes lung, eye and skin irritation along with breathing difficulties.

Image courtesy: CNN
Plumes of Laze rises from the water as lava reaches the Pacific Ocean. Near Pahoa, Hawaii, on Sunday.

 But this eruption isn’t unusual because parts Kilauea have been continuously erupting since  January of 1983.

The current eruption started on April 30, when the floor of the Puu Oo Crater, on the volcano’s East Rift Zone, collapsed and sent a pool of lava back underground. Days later and after a couple small earthquakes, the magma pushed its way back to the surface on the east side of the island’s Leilani Estates neighborhood, creating the first of many fissures.

The United States Geological Survey warned residents to remain alert.   “At any time, activity may again become more explosive, increasing the intensity of ash production and producing ballistic projectiles very near the vent,” said the The United States Geological Survey or USGS. “Communities downwind should be prepared for ashfall as long as this activity continues.”

Another issue that this volcano is causing, is hawaii’s tourism industry. To no one’s surprise, tourism is the big island’s biggest industry by far, and providing the most amount of jobs, according to the Hawaii Visitors Bureau. The biggest destination for tourism on the island is the Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, which has been closed since the beginning of the eruption. In all the lost revenue amounts to $222 million and about 2,000 jobs have been indirectly impacted, according to a park service report.