Huge fissures open on Hawaiian volcano, some defy evacuation order

 

PAHOA, Hawaii, May 14 (Reuters) - Lava oozing from giant rips in the earth that have sprouted near Hawaii's Kilauea volcano threatened highways on Monday, raising the possibility that officials will order remaining residents to evacuate before access routes are cut off.

Since May 3 when Kilauea began erupting, 19 lava-spewing fissures have opened in the area, including one that tore through a subdivision on Monday in the Lower Puna area of Hawaii's Big Island.

Steaming cracks along one of the areas main routes, Highway 132, have raised concerns a new fissure may develop there, which would imperil access for 2,000 people in the lower Puna area.

If the highway is cut off, officials will start to plan for a mass evacuation, Hawaii National Guard spokesman Maj. Jeff Hickman told reporters.

“We’ve been telling them, 'evacuate if you can, because if we have to come in and get you, we’ll be putting first responders at risk," Hickman said.

More on the volcanic eruption:

22 PHOTOS
Hawaiians impacted by the Kilauea volcano eruptions
See Gallery
Hawaiians impacted by the Kilauea volcano eruptions
Carolyn McNamara, 70, hugs her neighbor Paul Campbell, 68, at an evacuation center in Pahoa after moving out of their homes in the Puna community of Leilani Estates after the Kilauea Volcano, one of five on the island, erupted on Thursday after a series of earthquakes over the last couple of days, in Hawaii, U.S., May 4, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
Residents of the Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens subdivisions, who were evacuated from their homes due to eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano, pick up supplies at a community donation center on Monday in Pahoa, Hawaii, U.S., May 7, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
Piper Lynn, 37, center, eats a meal at a community donation center with her children, Kiera, 13, and Zachary, 2, from left, and her husband, Matthew Herrera, after the family was evacuated from their home due to eruptions of the nearby Kilauea Volcano on Monday in Pahoa, Hawaii, U.S., May 7, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
Piper Lynn, 37, center, picks up a meal at a community donation center with her children, Jacob, 15, Zachary, 2, and Kiera, 13, from left, after the family was evacuated from their home due to eruptions of the nearby Kilauea Volcano on Monday in Pahoa, Hawaii, U.S., May 7, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
Residents of the Leilani Estates subdivision pass a checkpoint while driving to their homes to pick up belongings after being evacuated due to eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano on Monday in Pahoa, Hawaii, U.S., May 7, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
Brandi Barnard, 30, right, a resident of the Leilani Estates subdivision who was evacuated from her home due to eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano, picks up clothing for her children at a community donation center on Monday in Pahoa, Hawaii, U.S., May 7, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
Red Cross volunteer Marilani Marciel, 59, watches donations arrive at an evacuation center in Pahoa for residents of the Puna communities of Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens who were forced to leave their homes after the Kilauea Volcano erupted on Thursday in Hawaii, U.S., May 4, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
Ron McLain, 58, watches as his husband, Michael Berry, 68, offers water to their dog at an evacuation center in Pahoa after moving out of their home in the Puna community of Leilani Estates after the Kilauea Volcano erupted on Thursday in Hawaii, U.S., May 4, 2018.
Audrey Meyer, 49, sits with her daughters, Nicole, 7, left, and Sarah, at an evacuation center in Pahoa after moving out of their home in the Puna community of Leilani Estates after the Kilauea Volcano erupted on Thursday after a series of earthquakes over the last couple of days, in Hawaii, U.S., May 4, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
Police check the identity of returning evacuees to Leilani Estates near the town of Pahoa on Hawaii's Big Island on May 7, 2018, after the residents were forced to evacuate following recent earthquakes and concern over toxic sulphur dioxide. - More than two dozen homes have been destroyed and dozens more are threatened by red-hot lava seeping from the Kilauea volcano, the most active in Hawaii, civil defense officials said. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
A fireman walks past a sign leading to the entrance of Leilani Estates where evacuees have been returning to gather their belongings near the town of Pahoa on Hawaii's Big Island on May 7, 2018, after the residents were forced to evacuate following recent earthquakes and concern over toxic sulphur dioxide. - More than two dozen homes have been destroyed and dozens more are threatened by red-hot lava seeping from the Kilauea volcano, the most active in Hawaii, civil defense officials said. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
PAHOA, HI - MAY 06: Parishioners pray during Sunday Mass at Sacred Heart Church on Hawaii's Big Island on May 6, 2018 in Pahoa, Hawaii. One parishioner from the church had their home destroyed by the recent lava flows in the area. A magnitude 6.9 earthquake struck the island May 4 along with new eruptions from the Kilauea volcano. The volcano has spewed lava and high levels of sulfur dioxide gas into two nearby communities, leading officials to order 1,700 to evacuate in the area. Officials have confirmed 26 homes have now been destroyed by lava in nearby Leilani Estates. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
PAHOA, HI - MAY 06: Evacuees Stacy Welch (L) and her daughter Maddy (C) check a map provided by a volunteer showing lava destruction in their Leilani Estates neighborhood on Hawaii's Big Island on May 6, 2018 in Pahoa, Hawaii. A magnitude 6.9 earthquake struck the island May 4 along with new eruptions from the Kilauea volcano. The volcano has spewed lava and high levels of sulfur dioxide gas into two nearby communities, leading officials to order 1,700 to evacuate in the area. Officials have confirmed 26 homes have now been destroyed by lava in Leilani Estates. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
PAHOA, HI - MAY 06: Parishioners pray during Sunday Mass at Sacred Heart Church on Hawaii's Big Island on May 6, 2018 in Pahoa, Hawaii. One parishioner from the church had their home destroyed by the recent lava flows in the area. A magnitude 6.9 earthquake struck the island May 4 along with new eruptions from the Kilauea volcano. The volcano has spewed lava and high levels of sulfur dioxide gas into two nearby communities, leading officials to order 1,700 to evacuate in the area. Officials have confirmed 26 homes have now been destroyed by lava in nearby Leilani Estates. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
PAHOA, HI - MAY 06: Residents jam a street after being allowed to briefly return home to check on belongings and pets in an evacuation zone near volcanic activity on Hawaii's Big Island on May 6, 2018 in Pahoa, Hawaii. A magnitude 6.9 earthquake struck the island May 4 along with new eruptions from the Kilauea volcano. The volcano has spewed lava and high levels of sulfur gas into two nearby communities, leading officials to order 1,700 to evacuate in the area. Officials have confirmed 26 homes have now been destroyed by lava in Leilani Estates. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Evacuees fill out forms before being allowed to return to their Leilani Estates homes to gather belongings on May 6, 2018, near Pahoa, Hawaii. - The Kilauea Volcano, the most active in Hawaii, was highly unstable on May 6, 2018, as lava spouted into the air and fissures emitted deadly gases -- hazards that have forced thousands of people to evacuate. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
A cyclist offers the Shaka sign, also known as 'Hang Loose' while riding past a plume of volcanis smoke in the distance over the area of Leilani Estates near the town of Pahoa on May 6, 2018, as authorities allowed evacuees to return to gather belongings and head back out on Hawaii's Big Island. - The Kilauea Volcano, the most active in Hawaii, was highly unstable on May 6, 2018, as lava spouted into the air and fissures emitted deadly gases -- hazards that have forced thousands of people to evacuate. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
PAHOA, HI - MAY 05: Volunteers check a phone while setting up a tent to distribute goods to evacuees beside a roadblock near volcanic activity on Hawaii's Big Island on May 5, 2018 in Pahoa, Hawaii. Many local residents are monitoring their phones for information. A magnitude 6.9 earthquake struck the island May 4 along with new eruptions from the Kilauea volcano. The volcano has spewed lava and high levels of sulfur gas into two nearby communities, leading officials to order 1,700 to evacuate in the area. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
PAHOA, HI - MAY 05: Evacuee Taylor Burns checks her phone in the emergency shelter where she is staying at the Pahoa Community Center on Hawaii's Big Island on May 5, 2018 in Pahoa, Hawaii. A magnitude 6.9 earthquake struck the island May 4 along with new eruptions from the Kilauea volcano. The volcano has spewed lava and high levels of sulfur gas into two nearby communities, leading officials to order 1,700 to evacuate in the area. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
PAHOA, HI - MAY 05: Evacuees (L to R) Stacy Welch, Taylor Burns and Maddy Welch gather with their pet goose and dog outside the emergency shelter where they are staying at the Pahoa Community Center on Hawaii's Big Island on May 5, 2018 in Pahoa, Hawaii. The three said they fled their home in vehicles in the early morning along with their pets after they saw lava approaching in the distance. A magnitude 6.9 earthquake struck the island May 4 along with new eruptions from the Kilauea volcano. The volcano has spewed lava and high levels of sulfur gas into two nearby communities, leading officials to order 1,700 to evacuate in the area. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Dr. Tim Richards, a longtime veterinarian on the island and County Councilman checks on evacuee Andrew Linne's dog Scotty at the Pahoa Community Center in Pahoa on Hawaii's Big Island, May 5, 2018. - A magnitude 6.9 earthquake shook Hawaii's Big Island on May 4, prompting fresh eruptions from a volcano that has been spewing lava near residential areas, forcing hundreds of people to flee. The US Geological Survey said the quake struck at 12:32 pm (2232 GMT) and was centered on the south flank of the Kilauea Volcano. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
Fred Lord, a resident of Black Sands near the Leilani Estates, relaxes at the Pahoa Community Center May 5, 2018 after after deciding to self-evacuate earlier in the day due to the nauseous fumes of sulphur at his residence. - A magnitude 6.9 earthquake shook Hawaii's Big Island on May 4, prompting fresh eruptions from a volcano that has been spewing lava near residential areas, forcing hundreds of people to flee. The US Geological Survey said the quake struck at 12:32 pm (2232 GMT) and was centered on the south flank of the Kilauea Volcano. (Photo by Frederic J. BROWN / AFP) (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
 

The Honolulu County Mayor's office, which oversees Puna, said on Sunday that lava eruptions had destroyed 37 structures.

Since the eruptions began, officials have ordered the evacuations of nearly 2,000 people, mostly in the Leilani Estates area, where explosions could be heard on Sunday as steam rose from cracks in the roads.

The American Red Cross said 500 people sought refuge in its shelters on Sunday night because of volcanic activity.

"This is adding to the growing fear of a mass evacuation," the Red Cross said in a statement. "Some highways are closed and hundreds are without power."

In addition, the U.S. Geological Survey said that pent-up steam could cause an explosion at the top of the volcano as the pool of lava recedes, launching a 20,000-foot (6,100-meter) plume that could spread debris over 12 miles (19 kilometers).


SEE ALSO: Cracks in Hawaii's Kilauea volcano roar amid warnings of more

 

Oozing flows of molten rock have destroyed some 37 buildings in the past 10 days, while emissions of sulfur dioxide gas in some areas have turned vegetation brown. No deaths or major injuries have been reported in latest series of eruptions from Kilauea, which has been in a state of nearly constant eruption since 1983.

Kilauea, a 4,000-foot-high (1,200-meters) volcano with a lake of lava at its summit is located in the far east of Hawaii's 4,028-square-mile (10,430-square-km) Big Island, which is home to about 200,000 people.

The USGS warned that fissures could erupt throughout the area, and Civil Defense officials on Sunday ordered people living on Halekamahina Road to evacuate and be on the alert for gas emissions and lava spatter.

One of the newest fissures, a 1,000-foot (300-meter) groove with smoke pouring out both ends, was sending a narrow lava flow toward the ocean two miles away, Civil Defense officials said on Monday. If it reaches the water, it will breach a coastal route, highway 137, another access route in Lower Puna.

(Reporting by Terray Sylvester in Pahoa and Jolyn Rosa in Honolulu; additional reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta and Andrew Hay; Writing by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Grant McCool)

 

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.