Ash cloud from Hawaii volcano sparks red alert for aviation

Leroy Wright
May 16, 2018

A red alert warning has been issued as Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano releases gas, leaving people who are close to the vents and lava flow at high risk. It says people may be unable to breathe if exposed.

Seek medical attention if severely affected.

Residents in the Puna community, home to about 10,000 people, were ordered to evacuate after public works officials reported steam and lava emissions from a crack, according to media and the County's Civil Defense Agency.

A total of 20 fissures have now opened, spewing lava, ash and toxic gases into the atmosphere, threatening homes and livelihoods.

Big Island hotel bookings for summer months are off nearly 50 percent from a year ago, Rob Birch, executive director of the Island of Hawaii Visitor Bureau, told journalists on a conference call.

The Big Island tourism board estimates $5 million worth of cancellations from May through July.

Authorities say the volcano has produced almost 20 active lava fissures and destroyed more than two dozen homes.

Officials warned residents to leave the area and get medical attention if they're affected by the gas.

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A lava fissure erupts in the aftermath of eruptions from the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island, on May 12, 2018 in Pahoa, Hawaii.

The eruption has destroyed about two dozen homes in the Leilani Estates subdivision on the Big Island.

The location of future outbreaks can't be predicted, but could include areas both uprift (southwest) and downrift (northeast) of the existing fissures, or resumption of activity at existing fissures.

Scientists discovered the small outbreak at around 2 p.m., when a photo revealed a small pad of lava between fissures 16 and 17, which did not appear in photos of the same scene taken Sunday morning. On Wednesday, The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory recorded a lava temperature of 217 degrees Fahrenheit.

Kilauea began erupting on May 3.

The USGS says ash eruptions at the volcano's summit have intensified, and as of Tuesday evening the ground and aviation alerts were at the highest levels.

The USGS previously had given an "orange" alert, indicating a major volcanic eruption may have been imminent but hazards were limited because of no or minor volcanic ash emissions.

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