Hawaii's Kilauea volcano erupts, forcing hundreds of residents to evacuate

Hawaii's Kilauea volcano erupted yesterday, forcing the evacuations of thousands of people on the big island as entire neighborhoods were threatened by lava. All residents of Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens should evacuate immediately.

"It was like if you put a bunch of rocks into a dryer and turned it on - a lot of earth and pressure and fire just moving around", he told AFP. Others also told the news network they smelled burning brush and heard tree branches snapping.

The eruption comes days after multiple earthquakes rattled the Puna district.

A 5.0-magnitude natural disaster on Thursday morning south of the cone triggered rockfalls and potential additional collapse of the crater, USGS said, and sent a short-lived but massive pink plume of ash wafting into the air.

Civil defense officials cautioned the public about high levels of sulfur dioxide near the volcano and urged vulnerable people to leave.

There were no immediate reports of injuries, but at least 100 people were staying in shelters Friday, with many more evacuees believed to be with relatives and friends.

The Kilauea volcano is the youngest and most active on the island of Hawaii, and has been erupting nearly continuously since 1983, according to the US Geological Survey.

Geologist Janet Babb of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory told AFP that scientists had been following an "intrusion of magma" down the rift zone since Monday afternoon in anticipation of a possible eruption.

In 1924, one person was killed when Kilauea spewed ash and rocks into the sky.

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The eruption has led to the mandatory evacuation of homes in the area.

Governor David Ige said he activated the Hawaii National Guard to support county emergency response teams with evacuations and security.

Earlier Thursday, officials at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) had raised the volcano's alert level to warning status.

There have also been hundreds of earthquakes this week, including a magnitude 5.3 temblor on Friday.

Areas downslope of the erupting vents were at risk of being covered by lava.

The US Geological Survey said no steam or heat were seen escaping from the cracks, and they were small - about several inches across.

In November of previous year, Bali's primary airport was closed for several days due to the eruption of Mount Agung. The series of earthquakes came after a collapse of a crater floor of Puʻu ʻŌʻō, which is a volcanic cone in the eastern rift zone of the Kīlauea Volcano.

A view of a so-called "skylight", a crack in the surface of solidified lava, taken during a Paradise Helicopters flight over the area allows a view on the hot glowing magma in an underground tube near the Pu'u 'O'o crater on the Hawaii island.

Another resident, Ikaika Marzo, told Hawaii News Now that he saw "fountains" of lava as high as 125 feet (38 meters). And the fear is that lava will spew out of cracks created by those earthquakes and destroy nearby homes.

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