Hawaiian volcanic eruption forces residents to flee their homes

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Weather & Natural Disasters

Hawaiian volcanic eruption forces residents to flee their homes

In this photo released by U.S. Geological Survey, a plume of ash rises from the Puu Oo crater on Hawaii's Kilaueaa Volcano, Thursday, May 3, 2018 in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
U.S. Geological Survey via AP

Lava from Hawaii's Kilauea volcano, erupting since 1983, flowed toward a subdivision, forcing residents of Puna's Lailani Estates to flee.

The evacuations were ordered Thursday and remained in effect Friday morning for the entire Big Island community of about 1,700 people, NBC affiliate KNHL reported.

Here's everything you need to know about the situation:

  • The eruption

    Hours after a magnitude 5 earthquake struck the island of Hawaii, a new eruption on Thursday afternoon opened a fissure on the volcano, spewing lava 125 feet into the air, NBC News reported. The island had been experiencing smaller tremors since last week.

    The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said lava did not flow more than 33 feet from the fissure and the fissure was no longer actively spewing lava Friday. However, a second vent opened early Friday and lava flowed further into central Leilani Estates, the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency told CNBC.

    Leilani Estates is about 30 miles south of Hilo, a popular Hawaiian vacation destination.

    A plume of ash rises from the Puu Oo vent on Hawaii's Kilaueaa Volcano after a magnitude 5.0 earthquake, Thursday, May 3, 2018 in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
    U.S. Geological Survey via AP
  • The evacuation

    The Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency issued a mandatory evacuation for Leilani Estates residents on Thursday afternoon after lava and smoke were seen pouring out from the fissure. Officers went door to door to make sure that people knew to leave their homes. Fire officials detected dangerous levels of sulfur dioxide in the air and that those who hadn't evacuated were told to do so, KNHL said.

    Two shelters were opened for evacuees.

    In this photo released by U.S. Geological Survey, lava is shown burning in Leilani Estates subdivision near the town of Pahoa on Hawaii's Big Island Thursday, May 3, 2018 in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
    U.S. Geological Survey via AP
  • 'My family is safe. That's the main thing.'

    One resident said he had been living in the community for 14 years and that he "knew this day might eventually come," but that he had no idea the reality of it.

    "My family and my pets are safe," the unidentified man told KNHL. "That's what I really care about. I mean, the rest is just stuff. We can make more money and get more stuff. My family is safe. That's the main thing."

    Residents had little time to grab their belongings — one told KNHL he grabbed his father's ashes as he ran out the door.

    In this photo released by U.S. Geological Survey, lava is shown burning in Leilani Estates subdivision near the town of Pahoa on Hawaii's Big Island Thursday, May 3, 2018 in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
    U.S. Geological Survey via AP
  • A history of volcanic activity 

    Kilauea's first known eruption was documented in 1790. It was an explosive eruption that killed more than 400 people when molten rock propelled by high winds surged toward warriors who were battling at the summit, according to Live Science.

    Hawaii's School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology said the volcano was active from 1790 to 1924, showing mostly "gentle effusion" from a lava lake. The volcano erupted again in 1924, but there were only short summit eruptions from 1924 to 1955.

    "Kilauea's eruption rate diminished steadily over the first half of the historic period but has been increasing again since 1924," the school's website said.

    In this photo released by U.S. Geological Survey, ash plume rises above the Puu Oo crater, on Hawaii's Kilaueaa Volcano Thursday, May 3, 2018 in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
    U.S. Geological Survey via AP