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New volcano fissure opens in Hawaii as lava threatens exit routes

PUNA (KHON2) - The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory says fissure 6 near Leilani Avenue and Pohoiki Road has become active again.

As of 4:45 p.m. Tuesday, scientists say the fissure is creating lava fountains and spatter.

The flow from fissure 17 has had little advancement since Tuesday morning.

Fissure 17 remains active as its narrow lava flow is moving slowly toward the ocean at approximately 20 yards per hour. There are no homes or roads threatened at this time. 

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reports a steady eruption of ash coming from Halemaumau Crater is causing ash to fall downwind across portions of Kau District.  Ash is being reported along Highway 11 to Pahala.

The Hawaii Fire Department reports that fissures in the southeast area of Lanipuna Gardens are issuing high levels of sulfur dioxide gas.

Residents in the area and surrounding farm lots on Pohoiki Road near Lanipuna Gardens are advised the air quality is condition red.

Condition red means immediate danger to health so take action to limit further exposure. Severe conditions may exist such as choking and inability to breathe. This is a serious situation that affects the entire exposed population.

Due to the toxic gas hazard in the affected area, the following are issued:

  • Leaving the area of SO2 inundation is the best way to protect yourself and your family.
  • Seek medical attention if severely affected.

Hawaii County officials say 20 fissures have opened in Leilani Estates since Thursday, May 3.

Click here for an interactive map.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, fissure 18 opened Sunday near Halekamahina Loop Road between fissures 16 and 17. Active fumes and lava spatter were issued for a short period.

Scientists discovered the small outbreak at around 2 p.m., when a photo revealed a small pad of lava between fissures 16 and 17, which did not appear in photos of the same scene taken Sunday morning.

Fissure 17, which was about 1,200 feet in length, opened earlier Sunday on Halekamahina Loop Road to the west, or Kalapana side, of Highway 132. Activity was dominated by lava fountaining, explosion of spatter bombs hundreds of feet into the air, and several advancing lava flow lobes moving generally northeast and southeast. Residents of Halekamahina Loop Road were ordered to evacuate. 

Fissure 17 was originally labeled 18, but was renamed 17 after officials say the previous fissure 17, which opened late Friday evening, never erupted lava.

Fissures 17 and 18 are on private property.

Fissure 16 opened east of Puna Geothermal Ventures, northeast of Lanipuna Gardens, Saturday morning.

Officials ordered the closure of all parks in the area and, for the safety of visitors, all inns and vacation rentals must also shut down.

The Department of Transportation will reopen Highway 130 from Malama Street to Kamaili Road this morning for local traffic only after inspecting newly formed cracks in the road. Motorists are advised to drive with caution as metal plates will be placed over the cracks on the roadway.  

Highway 132 and Highway 137 remain open for local traffic only.  

Earthquake activity and ground deformation continue and additional outbreaks in the general area of Leilani Estates were expected.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, the East Rift Zone intrusion and seismic activity appears to be moving downrift in a northeast direction. Hazardous fumes continue to be released from existing cracks and fissures.

The location of future outbreaks can't be predicted, but could include areas both uprift (southwest) and downrift (northeast) of the existing fissures, or resumption of activity at existing fissures. Communities downslope of these fissures could be at risk from lava inundation. 

As a precautionary measure, residents of lower Puna, between Kapoho and Kalapana, are advised to be on the alert in the event of possible gas emissions and volcanic eruption. Because there may be little to no advance notice to evacuate, you should be prepared to evacuate at short notice. Take this time to prepare.

If you evacuate voluntarily, the Pahoa Community Center and Keaau Community Center are open. Food will be provided and the shelters are pet-friendly. Click here for more information.

All beach parks in lower Puna have been closed, including the Pohoiki Boat Ramp.

Most of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is now closed. Officials say it's possible for a steam-induced explosion to occur at the summit of Kilauea Volcano due to the receding lava lake.

Should such an explosion occur, officials say the ensuing ash fall and southerly wind patterns would also create a public safety threat.

Assistance for displaced residents

Leilani Estates residents will still be allowed to check on their property from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day until further notice, conditions permitting. Residents will be required to provide identification and proof of residency in the subdivision.

A Recovery Information and Assistance Center (RIAC) will be open at Pahoa Community Center, Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Residents can go there to register for entry placards if they wish to retrieve personal items.

"We've got to make sure we vet everybody as far as making sure that the actual residents or homeowners or renters are going in there and nothing else is happening," said Magno.

Want to donate? How you can help families displaced by lava

The Hawaii County Police Department and the Prosecutor’s Office have established a policy of zero tolerance towards looting or vandalism. Under Emergency Provisions, any looting or vandalism will be treated as a felony.

Officials urge all visitors to avoid the Leilani Estates area. Sightseeing is not allowed for safety reasons.

A Temporary Flight Restriction is in effect.  All aviation requests are administered by the Hawaii Fire Department.


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