Thousands living near Hawaii’s erupting Kilauea volcano are nervously watching the spread of lava and ashfall. More evacuations may soon be ordered. But the main routes may soon be blocked.
Fiery red lava is not the only color lighting up the Big Island sky. Blue flames can be seen darting into the air, a sign that dangerous gases are being released. Some of the vents formed by the Kilauea volcano are now releasing extremely high levels of sulfur dioxide, which is very toxic and potentially life threatening.
The United States Geological Survey (USGS) issued a “red warning” for pilots to avoid flying in the region, something that has been urged since the beginning of volcanic activity.
USGS reports that an “ash eruption has increased in intensity” and the ash cloud is “as high as 10,000-12,000 feet above sea level.”
Winds are carrying the ash southwest of the Halemaumau Crater to a number of towns, including Pahala, Wood Valley, Punaluu and Hawaiian Oceanview Estates. Because of this, the National Weather Service urges residents – especially those with respiratory illnesses – to remain indoors, to avoid inhaling particles. Anyone going outside should cover their mouth and nose with a cloth or mask. The ash could also affect crops and animals.
At least 20 lava fissures have opened up since the eruptions began May 3, destroying more than two dozen homes or structures and creating a path about two miles long that’s heading toward the ocean.