President Trump declares Hawaii's devastating eruptions a major disaster

HONOLULU ― President Donald Trump on Friday declared the recent volcanic eruptions in Hawaii a major disaster, signaling federal agencies to assist with recovery efforts and allowing the state to access federal funding.

The declaration comes after a week of earthquakes, newly opened fissures and devastating lava flows have plagued neighborhoods in the Puna district of Hawaii’s Big Island. Gov. David Ige (D) requested the disaster declaration on Wednesday.

Kilauea, considered one of the world’s most active volcanoes, began erupting on May 3 after scientists observed an uptick in earthquakes around the volcano’s east rift zone. The initial eruptions were followed by two powerful earthquakes and the formation of even more explosive fissures. 

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Volcano eruption in Hawaii forces evacuation
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Volcano eruption in Hawaii forces evacuation
PAHOA, HI - MAY 5: In this handout photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, lava from a fissure slowly advances to the northeast on Hookapu Street after the eruption of Hawaii's Kilauea volcano on May 5, 2018 in the Leilani Estates subdivision near Pahoa, Hawaii. The governor of Hawaii has declared a local state of emergency near the Mount Kilauea volcano after it erupted following a 5.0-magnitude earthquake, forcing the evacuation of nearly 1,700 residents. (Photo by U.S. Geological Survey via Getty Images)
PAHOA, HI - MAY 5: In this handout photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, lava errupts from a new fissure from Luana Street after the eruption of Hawaii's Kilauea volcano on May 5, 2018 in the Leilani Estates subdivision near Pahoa, Hawaii. The governor of Hawaii has declared a local state of emergency near the Mount Kilauea volcano after it erupted following a 5.0-magnitude earthquake, forcing the evacuation of nearly 1,700 residents. (Photo by U.S. Geological Survey via Getty Images)
PAHOA, HI - MAY 5: In this handout photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, a panoramic view of a fissure errupting lava from the intersection of Leilani and Makamae Streets after the eruption of Hawaii's Kilauea volcano on May 5, 2018 in the Leilani Estates subdivision near Pahoa, Hawaii. The governor of Hawaii has declared a local state of emergency near the Mount Kilauea volcano after it erupted following a 5.0-magnitude earthquake, forcing the evacuation of nearly 1,700 residents. (Photo by U.S. Geological Survey via Getty Images)
A man watches as lava is seen sewing from a fissure in the Leilani Estates subdivision near the town of Pahoa on Hawaii's Big Island on May 4, 2018 as up to 10,000 people were asked to leave their homes following the eruption of the Kilauea volcano that came after a series of recent earthquakes. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
A man watches as lava is seen coming from a fissure in Leilani Estates subdivision on Hawaii's Big Island on May 4, 2018. - Up to 10,000 people have been asked to leave their homes on Hawaii's Big Island following the eruption of the Kilauea volcano that came after a series of recent earthquakes. (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Lava is seen coming from a fissure in Leilani Estates subdivision on Hawaii's Big Island on May 4, 2018. - Up to 10,000 people have been asked to leave their homes on Hawaii's Big Island following the eruption of the Kilauea volcano that came after a series of recent earthquakes. (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Steam rises from a fissure on a road in Leilani Estates subdivision on Hawaii's Big Island on May 4, 2018. - Up to 10,000 people have been asked to leave their homes on Hawaii's Big Island following the eruption of the Kilauea volcano that came after a series of recent earthquakes. (Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK, HI - MAY 3: In this handout photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, ash sprews from the Puu Oo crater on Hawaii's Kilauea volcano on May 3, 2018 in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The governor of Hawaii has declared a local state of emergency near the Mount Kilauea volcano after it erupted following a 5.0-magnitude earthquake, forcing the evacuation of nearly 1,700 residents. (Photo by U.S. Geological Survey via Getty Images)
HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK, HI - MAY 3: In this handout photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, a fissure forms on the west flank of the Puu Oo crater on Hawaii's Kilauea volcano on May 3, 2018 in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The governor of Hawaii has declared a local state of emergency near the Mount Kilauea volcano after it erupted following a 5.0-magnitude earthquake, forcing the evacuation of nearly 1,700 residents. (Photo by U.S. Geological Survey via Getty Images)
HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK, HI - MAY 3: In this handout photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, ash sprews from the Puu Oo crater on Hawaii's Kilauea volcano on May 3, 2018 in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The governor of Hawaii has declared a local state of emergency near the Mount Kilauea volcano after it erupted following a 5.0-magnitude earthquake, forcing the evacuation of nearly 1,700 residents. (Photo by U.S. Geological Survey via Getty Images)
HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK, HI - MAY 3: In this handout photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, the collapsed Puu Oo crater, which formed on April 30, spews ash on Hawaii's Kilauea volcano on May 3, 2018 in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The governor of Hawaii has declared a local state of emergency near the Mount Kilauea volcano after it erupted following a 5.0-magnitude earthquake, forcing the evacuation of nearly 1,700 residents. (Photo by U.S. Geological Survey via Getty Images)
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At least 15 fissures have formed so far, spewing fountains of lava and emitting toxic gases into the air.

Lava has covered an estimated 117 acres of land, including a large portion of Leilani Estates, a subdivision of Puna. At least 36 structures have been destroyed in the lava, including 27 homes. 

About 2,000 residents have been evacuated from the affected or threatened areas, according to an estimate by The Associated Press. The American Red Cross is operating shelters for evacuated residents while the county and Salvation Army are providing food and supplies. No deaths or injuries have been reported.

Activity on the volcano was relatively quiet on Thursday and Friday, though officials warned that levels of sulfur dioxide emitted from the fissures would rise as trade winds died down.

On Friday afternoon, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, part of the U.S. Geological Survey, warned that Kilauea’s Halemaumau crater, located in the summit, could have an “explosive eruption” and cause massive ash fallout. 

Officials have observed a dramatic drop in the crater’s lava lake, which they say could lead to a steam-driven eruption that would produce ash plumes as high as 20,000 feet, according to the Hawaii County Civil Defense.

The plume could reach 12 miles wide. Civil Defense officials warned residents to stay indoors with the window closed in case of a Halemaumau eruption.

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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