The eruption of the Kilauea Volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island is worsening. It has now created 19 fissures in the eastern rift zone among housing subdivisions near the island’s southeastern corner, one of which is spewing “lava bombs” into the air; and scientists say an explosion is imminent.
One of the newest fissures has been seen tossing “spatter bombs” of lava at distances of up to 500 feet, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. At least three dozen structures have already been damaged or destroyed by lava from the fissures, which began opening up over ten days ago in the Leilani Estates neighborhood of Puna, according to Forbes.
The unpredictable 2,000-degree lava is taking its toll on volcano evacuees on Hawaii’s Big Island. But there is one predictable outcome: the volcanic situation in Hawaii is going to get worse. Evacuees are now awaiting an “imminent” eruption that could rain car-size boulders and ash onto this tropical paradise.
Nearly 2,000 people have already been barred from their homes for 10 days as the Kilauea volcano pours lava through a rural neighborhood about 35 miles from Hilo, the island’s largest city. The eruption is showing no signs of slowing down either, with scientists warning it will “explode” anytime now.
When the volcano does explode, the damages are expected to radiate only about 12 miles from the crater, leaving Hilo untouched. It will set the lush jungle ablaze, more so than it already has, and cover some roads with ten feet thick solidifying rock. “A lot of people are scared,” said Tiana Dunn, who helped organize a community supply depot for evacuees in Pahoa. “People are still a bit sad and in disbelief.”
Forrest Lanning, a program manager at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, tweeted Friday that a summit-pressure explosion at Kilauea was likely in 24 to 48 hours. Since we’ve passed that time frame, authorities are pleading for caution, reminding residents through hourly radio broadcasts that the lava flows are unpredictable and the poisonous gases invisible.
The new danger comes from the lava level inside the volcano dropping, causing the explosion, according to USA Today. If it falls below the water table, water will pour onto the lava, generating steam that could explode from the summit. If that happens, boulders as big as refrigerators could be tossed a half-mile, and ash plumes could soar as high as 20,000 feet, according to the Hawaii Civil Defense. That eruption could happen anytime, and flight restrictions over the area are already in place.
With a new swarm of earthquakes taking place over the past 24 hours, the crisis at Kilauea could continue for some time into the future.