More fissures form in lava-threatened Hawaiian neighborhood

By Amy B Wang | Washington Post

Less than a week ago, Leilani Estates was the picture of serenity on Hawaii’s Big Island, a subdivision in the island’s eastern Puna district filled with wooden homes nestled in tropical plant-filled lots.

The latest eruption of the island’s most active volcano changed everything.

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Shortly after Kilauea erupted Thursday, the ground split open on the east side of Leilani Estates, exposing an angry red beneath the lush landscape. From the widening gash, molten rock burbled and splashed, then shot dozens of feet in the air.

The Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency called it “active volcanic fountaining.” Some residents insisted it was Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess, coming to reclaim her land. Residents were ordered to flee amid threats of fires and “extremely high levels of dangerous” sulfur dioxide gas.

Soon, another such fissure had formed a few streets to the west. Then another, and another. From the vents, hot steam – and noxious gases – rose, before magma broke through and splattered into the air.

As of Sunday night, at least 10 such fissure vents were reported in the neighborhood – including two that had opened anew late Saturday night – and at least 26 homes had been destroyed, according to the county civil defense agency.

“That number could change,” Hawaii County spokeswoman Janet Snyder told the Associated Press. “This is heartbreaking.”

The U.S. Geological Survey said some of the lava was shooting 330 feet into the air – higher than the tip of the Statue of Liberty torch.

The fissures are forming along a northeast-southwest line in the rift zone, and not all of the older fissures are actively spewing lava, said Wendy Stovall, a volcanologist with the USGS.

“As the eruption progresses, there will become a preferred pathway for the magma to go through,” Stovall said. “Some of the outer vents along this fissure line will start to close up and congeal because the lava is going to essentially harden.”

Once that happens, lava fountains from the remaining open vents can shoot even higher – reaching up to 1,000 feet, Stovall said.

More outbreaks are likely to occur along the rift zone, officials said.

Drone footage showed lava spouting along the fissures that had formed, creeping toward Leilani Estates homes and leaving lines of smoldering trees in their …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Nation, World

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