Lava fumes continue to threaten residents on Hawaii’s Big Island


HONOLULU — Lava from Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island that has destroyed 35 structures since last week continues to threaten residents and properties in the affected area, Hawaii County Civil Defense said in an alert.

“The East Rift Zone eruption in Leilani Subdivision continues. Hawaiian Volcano Observatory confirms that although volcanic activity has subsided, hazardous fumes continue in Leilani Estates Subdivision,” the alert said on Monday. “Since the onset of this eruption, a total of 10 fissures have emerged, and 35 structures have been destroyed.”

At least 26 of those structures are homes, but the agency did not specify the other nine structures that fell victim to the lava. On Sunday, Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno said the lava showed no sign of slowing down.

“Overnight, active emission of lava and spatter at multiple fissures was minimal. This is likely only a pause in activity; additional outbreaks or a resumption of activity are anticipated as seismicity continues in the area,” the observatory said in a statement.

The residents of the Leilani Estates subdivision, which were put under a mandatory evacuation on Thursday, are allowed to enter their homes between 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day to check their property and retrieve important belongings until further notice, according to the latest update. The residents of the Lanipuna Gardens subdivision, which were also evacuated, are prohibited from accessing their homes due to dangerous volcanic gases. Both subdivisions are located in the Puna district of Hawaii Island, commonly known as the Big Island, the largest of the Hawaiian islands in the Pacific Ocean.

Magno said not all residents adhered to the evacuation orders. He put the number of people staying behind in the affected subdivisions at “less than a dozen”.

On Friday, a magnitude 6.9 earthquake, the strongest in Hawaii since 1975, led to the closure of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and temporarily knocked out power, affecting about 14,000 customers, according to electric utility company Hawaii Electric Light Co.

Kilauea volcano, which has been erupting continuously since 1983 and is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, has shown signs of increased activity over the past week, causing hundreds of small earthquakes.

Following the opening of the first lava vent on Thursday, Hawaii Gov. David Ige activated the Hawaii National Guard to support emergency and evacuation efforts, which have so far affected about 1,700 residents. He also signed an emergency proclamation, which authorizes “the expenditure of state monies as appropriated for quick and efficient relief caused by the volcanic eruption”, according to the governor’s office.

Hawaii County Civil Defense said county, state and federal partners would continue to monitor the situation and inform the public should further safety concerns arise. The US Geological Service said eruptions and earthquakes could continue for months. Hawaii gained US statehood in 1959.