Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano erupts

On Thursday, May 4th, a 6.9-magnitude earthquake hit Hawaii’s Big Island, causing the ground to split open in multiple places and spewing forth lava.

The Kilauea volcano, which stands 4,200 feet tall, has remained active for thousands of years, but it’s recent eruption has forced 1,800 residents living near the volcano to evacuate the area. There have been many structures destroyed, but no injuries have been reported yet, although there may be some injuries in the coming days. Some residents have decided to stay in their homes to protect their belongings from getting stolen or to take care of their property. 

After the earthquake – one of the biggest Hawaii has seen in years, the Kilauea volcano started bubbling, with lava rising over the sides of the crater. But the main source of destruction has been the fissures, where land is cracking in multiple places to let the lava underneath the island loose.  

The first fissure opened on the east side of Leilani Estates, a residential area close to the volcano. From the gash, molten rock burbled and splashed before then shooting  dozens of feet into the air. Last Sunday more than 10 fissures were recorded in the neighborhood. Some have closed, meaning the lava has cooled down and is now rock. 

The U.S Geological Survey said some of the lava was spewing 330 feet up in the air – higher than the tip of the torch on the Statue of Liberty. 

As the remaining fissures continue to spew out lava, the lava in the crater has slowly started to recede, which causes the risk of explosion to increase. Explosions could occur if the lava drops below the groundwater level. If this happens, the water will flow into the conduit that feeds magma to the summit crater. The magma would heat the water, sending steam into the air causing pressure under the rocks that may have blocked the opening sending lava, rocks and ash into the air in multiple directions.  

Don Swanson, a geologist with the Hawaii Volcano Observatory, said the magma is likely to drop below the water level around the middle of the month. Scientists do not know how long after that an explosion could occur.