Lava from Kilauea Volcano covers 104 acres, destroys 36 structures in Hawaii

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PUNA (KHON2) – Kilauea’s volcanic activity continues on Hawaii island, and on Tuesday, two new fissures opened in Leilani Estates, bringing the total to 14.

Fissure 13 opened near the intersection of Leilani Avenue and Kahukai Road, while fissure 14 opened near Kaupili Street and Leilani Avenue, both in the northeast corner of the subdivision. 

“One we call fissure 13 broke out in the area of fissure 5, the earlier fissure 5. It lasted about half an hour. Then a little bit later, another fissure broke out near the former fissure 3. Then at around 2:30 (p.m.), we got a report that there was another fissure that was closer to where 13 had broken out. What we’re not certain of is if it’s an extension of that fissure 13, or if… it will be named fissure 15,” explained Janet Babb, geologist, U.S. Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

“It’s just a rapidly evolving situation. Things are changing quickly and this has been the concern all along about this type of eruption. Just because there’s a pause, it doesn’t mean the eruption’s over and things can change quickly,” Babb continued. “The USGS scientists that have seen this, they were in the air, and so now they need to be on the ground to really check out it’s an extension of that earlier fissure or if it will be a separate fissure.”

“They’ve impacted the roadways, definitely, cut off some of the points that residents were using to access the subdivision, so that’s going to create some hardship,” said Hawaii County Civil Defense administrator Talmadge Magno. 

The new fissures prompted Hawaii County Civil Defense to renew its mandatory evacuation order for neighboring Lanipuna Gardens. Residents were told to evacuate toward the ocean, in the direction of Isaac Hale Beach Park.

“The police were down there. There was supposed to be a roadblock in that area, but Civil Defense was not intending to be there. It was just the direction that they needed to go to evacuate,” Magno said.

At last check, lava has burned a total of 36 structures, including one on Tuesday, Hawaii County Civil Defense reports. At least 26 are verified residences.

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. “The activity is on the northeast corner of the subdivision, and so the rest of the subdivision, aside from being impacted by the gases should be okay at this point,” Magno said.

Residents will be required to provide identification and proof of residency in the subdivision.

A Recovery Information and Assistance Center (RIAC) is now open at Sacred Hearts Church in Pahoa, Mondays through Fridays, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. That is where residents can 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.

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.

Hawaii Electric Light reminds residents to treat all downed lines as live. Under no circumstances are you to approach or touch downed lines.

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

Volcanic activity

So far, the fissures have formed a straight line, and geologists say while unlikely, there is a chance a new lava vent could appear outside of this pattern.

“We don’t know all the intricate pre-existing fissures or newly forming fissures. We don’t know where they all are, therefore we can’t predict when or where a new fissure will open up,” said Scott Rowland, a geologist with the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Geologists say the eruption is not over yet, and they continue to detect earthquakes and magma within the East Rift Zone.

“We are learning things. So for instance, we are collecting samples from each fissure once it has erupted, so they’ve been analyzed, and we are beginning to understand more about what’s coming out, where it’s been, and what might come next,” said Janet Babb, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

While Puna Geothermal Venture reported no activity and its facility was secured, the company took precautionary measures Monday to remove potentially flammable materials from the site. Councilwoman Jen Ruggles said the company agreed to remove the pentane gas stored at the facility.

“Since the recent lava activity has only been increasing, the risk assessment must have demonstrated that it’s safer to start transporting the pentane, so in terms of how they are going to do that, that is what they’re figuring out currently,” she said.

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