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Hawaii asks for US help with volcano disaster

12 May 2018

The costs will skyrocket if there needs to be large-scale air and sea evacuations.

Geologists warn of the possibility that if Kilauea keeps releasing toxic gas and lava, it could erupt within the coming weeks.

Previous explosive eruptions at the Kilauea volcano in 1925, 1790 and four times in the last few thousand years have got scientists concerned, according to Mr Mandeville from the US Geological Survey.

Kilauea has destroyed 36 constructions - together with 26 properties - since Might 3, when it started releasing lava from vents about 25 miles (40 kilometers) east of the summit crater.

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How it impacts people: Fortunately, the immediate area mostly comprises a national park and is not heavily populated. In fact, it was tall enough to reach the jet stream, which propelled the ash more than 10 miles away from the crater. However, natural disaster activity and ground deformation continue and additional outbreaks in the general area of Leilani Estates are likely.

Authorities ordered two subdivisions in the area to evacuate last week. The plant has been shut down, and workers are trucking away 60,000 gallons of flammable liquids. The area's residents have been forced to flee to safer grounds as lava oozes through their once serene communities, swallowing trees, cars, roads, and houses. Later that evening, the thirteenth and fourteenth fissures, or vents, opened on the Kilauea volcano. Fissure 12 opened in the forest south of Malama Street in Leilani Estates.

Most of these volcanoes are situated in the Ring of Fire, an area of intense seismic activity in the Pacific Ocean where many earthquakes and eruptions occur.

As of 11 a.m. Thursday, those quakes had progressed as far as Highway 132 beyond Puna Geothermal Venture. Officials have issued mandatory evacuation orders for the Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens neighbourhoods. And with new fissures are opening closer to the edge of the plant, residents are getting even more anxious. Some two dozen homes have burned.

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Steam and gas rose along the edge of Kilauea's summit crater in Volcanoes National Park on Thursday.

Though it is not uncommon for the Kilauea volcano on the southern shore of Hawaii's Big Island to erupt, the recent explosion is the worst encountered in decades. Findings from a database of global volcano fatalities published a year ago in the Journal of Applied Volcanology offer some clues as to why: Deaths linked to flowing lava are relatively rare, accounting for a tiny fraction of the world's volcano-driven mortality. Already, the active peak has seen smaller scale bursts, as rockslides fall into the volcano's crater and create plumes of ash. Hawaii hasn't seen explosive activity like that in almost a century.

It has now been a week since the eruption began, the emotional toll wearing residents down. "That would be a pretty big red flag that we might be moving into some sort of explosive behavior", Tina Neal, the scientist in charge of the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, told Newsweek in December. Experts said an explosion wouldn't be deadly as long as people steer clear of areas immediately near the volcano.

This version corrects that the material being moved from the plant is pentane, not pentene, and is in liquid, not gas form.

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Hawaii asks for US help with volcano disaster