Lava sparks mandatory evacuations on Hawaii's Big Island

The National Guard was activated and mandatory evacuations were under way Thursday on the Big Island of Hawaii as lava sluiced toward a community and menaced residents, authorities said.

Hawaii County civil defense officials ordered some of the 1,500 residents of Leilani Estates in the Puna district, on the eastern coast of the island, to get out late Thursday afternoon as steam and red lava began emerging from a crack in the earth in the Leilani neighborhood.

The eruption was reported at about 4:30 p.m. (10:30 p.m. ET), about six hours after a magnitude-5.0 earthquake rattled the active Kilauea volcano following several days of smaller tremors, said the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, an agency of the U.S. Geological Survey.

The observatory said the lava was erupting from the volcano's lower East Rift Zone. NBC affiliate KHNL of Honolulu quoted residents as saying they could see lava spewing from cracks in roadways.

"I'm just hoping that it doesn't hurt anybody's home or hurt anyone, wherever Pele decides to pop out," Bailee Yamada of the Puna region told KHNL, invoking the name of the Hawaiian goddess who legend says lives on Kilauea's summit.

"If Pele comes, Pele comes," Curt Redman of Puna told the station. "Now we're kind of crossing our fingers to see what Pele might do next."

Gov. David Ige activated the Hawaii National Guard to assist with evacuations and security.

Ige said early Thursday evening that he had consulted with Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim and that "the state is actively supporting the county's emergency response efforts."

Kilauea is the most active of the five volcanoes that form the island of Hawaii. Its most recent major eruption came in June 2014, disgorging lava flows that continued for months before they stopped just short of the town of Pahoa.

Vintage photos of Hawaii pre-statehood
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Vintage photos of Hawaii pre-statehood
UNSPECIFIED - MAY 03: The Royal Palace Honolulu al Sandwich Islands photo by John Lawson Stoddard (1850 1931) Voyageur and conferencier publication Education for Chicago (Photo by Apic/Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Waikiki, HI: Boys surfing at Waikiki, Hawaii. Undated photograph.
Natives dancing the hula. (Photo by Eliot Elisofon/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
A pineapple worker picking pineapples from the plantation. (Photo by William C. Shrout/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Waikiki Beach w. Diamond Head in rear as seen from across the bay at the Royal Hawaiian. (Photo by William C. Shrout/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
Two couples, one in tails, dance on the beach in the early morning to the sounds of a ukelele, Hawaii circa 1920. (Photo by Pam Beauchamp/Underwood Archives/Getty Images)
Waikiki beach on Oahu, with Diamond Head in the background, Honolulu, Hawaii, circa 1925. (Photo by Underwood & Underwood/Underwood Archives/Getty Images)
A native Hawaiian dancer performing while other women keep rhythm with gourds, Hawaii, circa 1924. (Photo by Underwood Archives/Getty Images)
A surfer at Waikiki Beach stands on his head as he rides a wave into the shore, Honolulu, Hawaii, circa 1925. Diamond Head is in the background. (Photo by Underwood Archives/Getty Images)
Four Japanee tourists pose at the Halekulani Hotel on Waikiki Beach with a native Hawaiian and his long surfboard, Honolulu, Hawaii, circa 1930. (Photo by Tai Sing Loo/Underwood Archives/Getty Images)
circa 1930: Tourists peer into the mouth of Halemaumau, which means 'House of Everlasting Fire', the inner crater of Kilauea. Situated on the slopes of Mauna Loa on central Hawaii Island, Kilauea is the most active volcano in the world. (Photo by General Photographic Agency/Getty Images)
15th January 1932: A group of Hawaiian girls sitting against a tropical background. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
(Original Caption) 1932-Honolulu, Hawaii- Aerial photo of Waikiki Beach, taken from a Navy seaplane. The Manao Hotel is in the center.
Hawaiian swimming stars Duke Kahanamoku (left) and his younger brother Sam at a break during the tryouts at the Olympic Pool in Long Beach for the 1924 Summer Olympics, Long Beach, California, June 15, 1924. Duke won the 100meter freestyle gold at the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm. (Photo by Underwood Archives/Getty Images)
Staff members of the Pan American Airways base here have created a full size golf course in the island sands, Midway Island, Pacific Ocean, October 15, 1936. The two members here are playing through the local hazard, albatross, otherwise known as gooney birds. (Photo by Underwood Archives/Getty Images)
Gov. of Hawaii Samuel Wilder King and his wife walking in the street with many petitioners regarding the issue of statehood. (Photo by George Silk/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
A view of Honolulu from Punch Bowl crater, showing a portion of the US Navy fleet in Honolulu, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, December 29, 1940. The Army and Navy are rushing work on 17 air bases in the Hawaiian area. (Photo by Underwood Archives/Getty Images)
Housing on hillsides of Honolulu. (Photo by George Silk/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)
A Hawaiian woman dances on a grass mat while two other women watch, Hawaii, circa 1900. (Photo by Underwood Archives/Getty Images)
Pineapple Field on Plantation (Photo by � Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

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