Hawaii-residents are battling molten-lava, toxic-gas and major-tremors, all at once
As many as 26 homes have already been damaged as Hawaii's Kilauea volcano started spewing molten lava and toxic gas last week. Till yesterday, at least 10 volcanic vents had erupted in the now-evacuated region of Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens. There's no casualty yet, but for many, who are currently housed in community shelters, the loss of their homes has left them broken.
The May 3 eruption came after hundreds of earthquakes on the eastern side of the Big Island the last few days. Schools had been shut down and roads had developed cracks. The Puu Oo crater floor had started to collapse last Monday, triggering tremors and the lava into new underground chambers. Authorities had been issuing warnings all week, urging residents to prepare for evacuation.
Now, red-hot lava is flowing through at least 10 vents, sometimes shooting as high as 330ft into the air. Homes and trees have been burnt to ashes. Streets have been cut off. With time, the magma will find one pathway, officials explained, and other vents will start closing up as the lava hardens. Then, shooting lava can reach up to 1,000ft, they said.
More deadly is the toxic gas that has filled the air, officials explained. Some first responders had already felt the effects. Unlike lava, the gas can spread fast and in all directions. If this continued, soon, rescue personnel wouldn't even be able to enter the locality. Sulfur dioxide can be fatal, said Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), especially for those with respiratory illnesses.
Meanwhile, tremors have continued till now. A major 5.6-magnitude quake hit the area midday on Friday, followed by a 6.9-magnitude temblor an hour later. Videos showed houses shaking, things falling to the floor in supermarkets, and waves being created in swimming pools. Though most of the 1,700 residents have moved out, some still remain trapped.
Kilauea is one of the world's most active volcanoes. Much of its activity has been non-explosive, but in 1924, an eruption shot 10-ton rocks into the sky. One person was killed. The 1983 eruption of the Puu Oo saw lava shooting up over 1,500 feet into the air. Since then, the lava flow has buried dozens of kilometers of land and damaged many homes.