A large explosion in Hawaii's Kilauea volcano on Wednesday may mark the beginning of more violent, explosive eruptions that could spray rocks for miles (kilometers) and dust nearby towns in volcanic ash and smog, the US Geological Survey said.
Geologists now warn that the volcano could erupt explosively and send boulders, rocks and ash into the air around its summit in the coming weeks.
Hawaii County Civil Defence says a 15th volcanic vent opened on Wednesday. When it hits the level of the water table beneath the Kilauea caldera, likely sometime mid-month, the influx of water into the conduit could trigger steam-driven eruptions, geologists said.
It has destroyed 36 structures since it began releasing lava into fissures that opened in a Big Island residential neighborhood last week.
Following the eruption on May 1, 1,700 residents were asked to evacuate.
Scientists say it opened at around 2:30 p.m. across Pohoiki Road between Leilani Avenue and Hinalo Street.
"Steam-driven explosions at volcanoes typically provide very little warning", the observatory said.
A total of 14 new fissures have appeared on the Big Island since the eruption began, with two new vents opening on Tuesday.More news: Romaine Lettuce Source Identified in E. Coli Outbreak, 149 People Sick
Local residents have long voiced concern about the Puna Geothermal Venture, which state senator Russell Ruderman said was constructed more than 25 years ago in a recognized high-risk zone for lava flow, and despite the objections of local residents. Leilani Estates residents have been allowed to return during the day to inspect property and remove belongings.
"Presently, during the drawdown of the lava column, rockfalls from the steep enclosing walls of the Overlook crater vent impact the lake and produce small ash clouds". Earthquakes followed, including one that measured magnitude 6.9, and lava was pushed into new underground areas that eventually broke through the ground in such areas as the Leilani Estates.
Andrew Nisbet has no idea what happened to his house since he left it.
"I'm in the safest part in the subdivision".
Wiggers said he wasn't leaving his home on the outskirts of the evacuation zone because he anxious that if he did, he wouldn't be able to get back in. If the situation at the summit worsens, the National Park Service said it would take action to evacuate people and close Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to visitors. I'm not a dumb-dumb. "I walked out onto my deck and I heard this sound, it sounded like whoosh, whoosh", said Northway.
Officials warn that lava could flow downhill and burn areas that don't now face danger and that toxic volcanic gas could kill people, especially the elderly and those with breathing problems.
Gov. David Ige signed a Presidential Disaster Declaration request, asking the President of the United States to declare the State of Hawai'i a major disaster as a result of the ongoing seismic activity and volcanic eruption on Hawai'i Island. Unlike the lava flow from a regular eruption, this one is reportedly slower but damaging nonetheless.