Trump declares a major disaster in Hawaii after volcanic eruptions and lava

April FrancisMay 13, 2018

Hawaii's governor is asking President Donald Trump to declare the state a disaster because of earthquakes and a volcanic eruption on the Big Island.

Kilauea, the volcano that's been erupting on the Island of Hawaii over the past week, has already forced the evacuation of almost 2,000 people and the destruction of more than two dozen homes.

Earlier this week, geologists warned that the rapid lowering of a lava lake in a crater raised the potential for explosions.

"We know the volcano is capable of doing this", Mandeville said, citing similar explosions at Kilauea in 1925, 1790 and four other times in the last few thousand years. Then last week, it was Kilauea volcano sending 2,200 degree (1,200 degree Celsius) lava bursting through cracks into people's backyards in the Leilani Estates neighborhood.

The eruption didn't stop Matthew and Angelina Coney, who flew in for their honeymoon even though the lava outbreak began the day they married in Fresno, California. The observatory, which is part of the U.S. Geological Survey's Volcano Hazards Program, released a warning stating that the current conditions near and in the Kilauea volcano may provoke further explosions.

Experts fear Kilauea volcano on Hawaii island could send ash and boulders the size of refrigerators miles into the air. "You don't want to be underneath anything that weighs 10 tons when it's coming out at 120 miles per hour". It has destroyed 36 structures, including 26 homes.

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At a meeting on Thursday night, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientist Steve Brantley told residents that magma created by a 1955 eruption was being forced to the surface by Kilauea. She's anxious potential flight disruptions would strand them on the island.

Scientists note that as long as people stay out of closed areas of a national park around the volcano, the possible explosion won't be deadly.

Hawaii County officials say pentane is being moved from Puna Geothermal Venture to an offsite industrial park away from the neighbourhoods where lava fissures have emerged. Volcano and other nearby communities may be showered by pea-sized fragments or dusted with nontoxic ash but they aren't expected to get hit by large boulders, she said.

Officials with the agency wouldn't estimate the likelihood of such an explosion, but called it a "distinct possibility". This is an unnerving prospect indeed, because this could set off a series of powerful steam explosions that could shower the surrounding area with 10-ton molten rocks and spew ash as far as 20 miles away.

The danger zone from such a blast could extend about 3 miles (5 kilometers) from the summit, land that all falls within the national park, Mandeville said.

"It's just awful. You can't breathe in there", said evacuated resident Robynn Stagg, 58, who drove through the thick, orange sulfur dioxide haze earlier this week in a failed attempt to check on her home.

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