The Kilauea volcano continues to erupt fountains of lava while multiple earthquakes – including the biggest in more than 40 years – rock Hawaii’s Big Island, forcing evacuations and school closures.
Up to 2000 people have been ordered to evacuate, and Hawaii Governor David Ige has activated the Hawaii National Guard to provide emergency help.
The volcano, one of five on the island, began erupting on Thursday after a series of earthquakes over the past week, the US Geological Survey reported.
More than six lava fissures have erupted so far in the Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens subdivisions, home to about 1700 people.
Sirens are now sounding in Leilani Estates. More drone video shows the fountains of lava in the subdivision. Lava is shooting up then piling up around cracks in the ground. Video from Jeremiah Osuna. https://t.co/YRuq3aGYnh pic.twitter.com/nrSfhyJ0eZ
— Lynn Kawano (@LynnKawano) May 4, 2018
On Friday residents were ordered to evacuate after public works officials reported steam and lava bubbling up from cracks in the road, the island state’s Civil Defence said.
Eruption of the Kilauea Volcano Hawaii. Pink smoke after a M5.0 earthquake today.
— Buitengebieden (@buitengebieden) May 4, 2018
Meanwhile, constant earthquakes continue to shake the Big Island, as locals call it, on Saturday (AEST).
A 6.9 magnitude earthquake centred on the volcano’s south flank was felt as far away as the town of Hilo and the neighbouring island of Oahu, home to the capital city of Honolulu.
Video footage shows food shaking off the shelves of supermarkets in Keaau, with Hawaiian news agencies reporting the closure of six schools on Friday, including the University of Hawaii in Hilo.
The 6.9-magnitude quake is the largest quake in Hawaii since 1975, according to officials, and followed a 5.4 magnitude earthquake about 18 kilometres south-west of the Leilani Estates, the US Geological Survey reported.
This is real-time video from Jeremiah Osuna of Leilani Estates on the Big Island. Mandatory Evacuation of Leilani Estates. Shelters at Pahoa Community Center and Keeau Community Center. Please be safe. pic.twitter.com/ECEbNgaj6d
— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) May 4, 2018
The quakes have also raised fears of tsunamis, although none so far have been spawned by the earth-convulsing eruptions.
Aerial footage on the Hawaii News Now website taken on Saturday morning shows the Pu’u’o’o crater is nearly emptied of lava as the eruptions continue as a 6.0-magnitude earthquake was reported near Hawaii Island.
Leilani Estates resident Dale Miller, 58, said the lava tubes – natural tunnels underground that drain lava during an eruption – created a landmass similar to the texture of “Swiss cheese”.
Another resident, who asked to be known only as Lee, described the lava as “like a big snake was moving under the house”.
— Hawaii News Now (@HawaiiNewsNow) May 4, 2018
The gas emanating from the volcano can cause skin irritations and breathing difficulties.
Keala Noel, 64, also from Leilani Estates, said she didn’t feel the lava was directly threatening them, but took refuge at a shelter because of the sulphur.
“We stayed because we didn’t feel any imminent danger. But I could hardly breathe yesterday.”
A relative filmed this at the end of his street near Leilani Estates on #Hawaii’s Big Island. Eruptions coming up in cracks left from the earthquake with uncertainty of the lava’s trajectory.
This was BEFORE the 6.9 struck. pic.twitter.com/gSfuuORIiB
— Jessica Christian (@jachristian) May 4, 2018
Two emergency shelters were opened to take in evacuees, the Civil Defense Agency said, while Governor David Ige activated the Hawaii National Guard to provide emergency help.
“Please be alert and prepare now to keep your family safe,” Mr Ige said on Twitter to residents living near the volcano.
Lava, which can reach temperatures of about 1150 degrees Celsius, spread less than about 10 metres from the fissure.
The Kilauea volcano has been erupting nearly continuously for more than three decades. Lava flows from the volcano have covered 125 square kilometres, according to the US Geological Survey.