Continuously erupting volcano turns violent

Hawaii’s Mt. Kilauea volcano explodes for the first time since 1924

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On May 3, 2018, Mt. Kilauea, a volcano located on Hawaii’s Big Island, erupted, spewing streams of lava hundreds of feet into the air.

CBS News reported that during the eruption, sixty-two earthquakes, ranking as high as 6.9 on the Richter scale—a nine-point scale measuring the severity of geological tremors—occurred, adding to the environmental chaos.

According to CBS, these earthquakes, alongside of the eruption, caused a significant amount of damage to the Big Island, destroying at least forty structures, though most of the destruction is attributed to lava flows, which have also overcome roads and cut off access to many homes and communities. CNN reports that these flows are increasing in speed, advancing at rates up to 300 feet per hour.

Despite most of the individuals residing in close proximity to the volcano and at immediate risk from the blasts being successfully evacuated, (though, according to CNN, that is in part due to the fast-acting National Guard, which airlifted some residents away from the lower Puna area) even distanced from the molten lava threatening them, Kilauea continues to prove dangerous. Fissures, cracks, and vents, located throughout the island that have been forced open and expanded by the eruption, have released high, sometimes toxic levels of volcanic gases, including sulfer dioxide, contaminating the air, and making it potentially poisonous for residents and visitors to breathe.

Furthermore, CBS shares that additional explosions from the craters of the volcano could launch giant boulders, the size of refrigerators, and send steaming hot ash, far into the atmosphere, clouding typically crystal-clear skies, and further endangering island locals and guests. In fact, CNN reports that one of the craters, Halemaumau, created an ash cloud that reached up to 10,000 feet, and that continuing explosions from the summit have reached 30,000 feet. As a result of this, air traffic could be shut down, and almost 18,000 gas masks have been distributed to individuals on the island.

The volcano remains incredibly active and will continue to erupt in the coming days.

Though the volcano is known for its consistent and continuous activity, often serving as a tourist attraction, this is the first time, since May of 1924, Hawaii has witnessed an explosion of this force and magnitude. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), in that year, Halema’uma’u, the largest crater in Kilauea,  exploded, more than fifty times, for two and half weeks. These explosions caused the crater to double in size and deepen 1,300 feet.

The remaining effects of this current explosion are still to be seen, but islanders are cautioned to remain careful and vigilant, because as Earth’s history has shown, even when things seem to be at their calmest, a storm can be coming.

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