Hawaii’s famous Kilauea volcano has spewed lava for decades, becoming a major tourist destination even as it threatened nearby residents.
The volcano erupted again Thursday after hundreds of earthquakes rattled the area this week, including a magnitude 5.0 temblor.
White, hot vapor and blue fumes started emanating from cracks Thursday afternoon, Hawaii County officials said. Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens were under mandatory evacuation after a giant crack started spreading lava in those communities.
Ikaika Marzo, who was born and raised in the lower Puna area, told CNN affiliate KHON on Thursday night that the latest eruption was different from others in the late 1980s and ‘90s.
“We’ve been feeling hard jolts and tremors still yet,” he said. “Some of the activity has subsided already, but it’s not done. I don’t think it’s done yet.”
Fire officials warned they’ve detected extremely high levels of sulfur dioxide in evacuated areas and warned residents to stay away.
But Marzo told the station he’ll stay in Leilani Estates to prevent looting until he is forced to out.
Another Leilani Estates resident, Petra Wiesenbauer, told KHON, “Each event that’s happening right now these days is something new. It’s kind of hard to do any kind of other work except look at Facebook for the latest updates on what’s going on.”
Jeremiah Osuna, a resident of nearby Nanawale Estates, said he flew his drone over a “curtain of fire” and it sounded like putting “a bunch of rocks into a dryer and (turning) it on as high as you could.”
“I couldn’t believe it,” he told the station. “I was kind of shaken a little bit and realizing how real everything is, and how dangerous living on the East Rift can be.”
Major tourist attraction
The Kilauea volcano is the youngest and most active on the island of Hawaii, and has been erupting almost continuously since 1983, according to the US Geological Survey. It’s in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, a major tourist attraction.
Aerial shots show the Puu Oo volcanic vent southeast of Kilauea’s caldera churning smoke after the eruption.
“The summit crater hosts an active lava pond and a vigorous gas plume,” the USGS says. “Kīlauea ranks among the world’s most active volcanoes and may even top the list.”
Kilauea lava flows have threatened communities numerous times. “From 1983, when the Puu Oo eruption began … residential areas were threatened and homes were lost,” said Janet Babb of the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.
“Any time lava poses a threat to residents, it’s a big deal.”
There are 770 structures and 1,700 people in the area under mandatory evacuation, said Cindy McMillan, a spokeswoman for Gov. David Ige.
On Thursday, the final day of Hawaii’s legislative session, state Rep. Joy San Buenaventura, a legislator in the affected area, asked lawmakers to pray for Puna, CNN affiliate KITV reported.
State Sen. Russell Ruderman said history has taught Puna residents patience.
“You have to live this day and enjoy this day and hope for the best for tomorrow, but it’s very possible that nothing will happen so it’s not appropriate to completely freak out,” he told the station.
At least 4 active volcanoes
The Big Island has at least four active volcanoes, with Kilauea the most active.
“Mauna Loa has erupted 33 times since 1843, with the most recent eruption in 1984,” the USGS says. “Loihi, the submarine volcano located off the south coast of Kilauea, erupted most recently in 1996.”
Hualalai has erupted three times over 1,000 years.
CNN’s Ray Sanchez contributed to this report.