The Kilauea volcano spewed fountains of lava into communities on Hawaii’s Big Island on Friday (local time), forcing more than 1,500 people, including many retirees, to flee from their mountainside homes.
The volcano, one of five on the island, began erupting on Thursday (local time) after a series of earthquakes over the past week, the US Geological Survey reported on its website.
The latest earthquake, with a magnitude of 5.8, struck about 12:15pm on Friday (local time).
The Hawaii governor activated the National Guard to help with evacuations and provide security to about 770 structures left empty when residents sought shelter.
County, state and federal officials had been warning residents all week they should be prepared to evacuate, as an eruption would give little warning.
The geological survey raised the volcano’s alert level to warning status, the highest possible, meaning a hazardous eruption was imminent, underway or expected.
Residents in Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens subdivisions, home to about 1,700 people, were ordered to evacuate after public works officials reported steam and lava burbling up from cracks in the road, the county’s Civil Defence said.
Hawaii officials said two homes in one of the rural subdivisions had been burned by lava from the erupting volcano.
Authorities are still assessing the extent of the damage. No injuries or deaths were reported.
“There are lava tubes on our property,” said Dale Miller, 58, a Leilani Estates resident, referring to the natural tunnels underground that drain lava during an eruption.
“The whole thing is Swiss cheese.”
“It felt like there was something under the house — like a big snake was moving under the house,” said Lee, who added this was the first time in eight years of living by the volcano that he had had to evacuate.