Red Alert issued for Hawaii's Kilauea volcano, threat of major eruption

Spewing ash as far as 18 miles away, an increase in intensity of volcanic ash production at Hawaii's Kilauea volcano caused the U.S. Geological Survey to upgrade its Aviation Warning Code from orange to red on Tuesday afternoon.

People play golf as an ash plume rises in the distance from the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island. Residents in the area and surrounding farm lots near Lanipuna Gardens are advised the air quality is condition red.

Most of the activity remains concentrated at fissure 17, although lava flows have advanced little over the past day.

Officials warned residents to leave the area and get medical attention if they're affected by the gas.

USGS is warning there could still be an "explosive eruption" of Kilauea, last seen in 1924.

This activity is in addition to a new fissure which opened on Sunday, spraying magma chunks over 100 feet in the air and spewing lava into surrounding forests and residential neighborhoods. Plant workers last week as a precaution removed 50,000 gallons of a flammable gas stored at the site.

Scientists say that as the lava level continues to drop in the crater, more fissures are likely to open in the ground and have warned of a major volcanic eruption.

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Ash fall and volcanic air pollution have been reported in Pahala, about 28 kilometres downwind.

The ash threatened Ka'u district, which is about 30 miles south west of the volcano, whereas poisonous fuel added to the hazard going through residents, whose escape routes are threatened with closure due to lava flows, officers stated.

More than 2,000 people have been evacuated since the Kilauea volcano erupted on May 3, streaming lava and destroying property.

Mass evacuations would be triggered if Highway 132 or 137 is hit by lava, according to Hawaii National Guard spokesman Jeff Hickman.

"It seems that the system up at the summit has been what we call somewhat open, relieving that pressure", Michelle Coombs, a geologist who is the scientist-in-charge at the Alaska Volcano Observatory, told reporters in Hilo, Hawaii. For almost two weeks lava has erupted daily from newly formed fissures - now at 21 outbreaks-since May 3 in the community of lower Puna.

Unnerved by near-constant small earthquakes and emissions of toxic sulfur dioxide gas, Rob Guzman and his husband Bob Kirk left their home in Kalapana Seaview Estates while they still could.

This is the "first leak we're seeing out of the bucket", Birch said.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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