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Kilauea volcano erupts, Hawaii hands out 18000 ash masks

18 May 2018

The floor is lava: For two weeks, slow-moving lava has been oozing out of various fissures, destroying about 26 homes.

Michelle Coombes said the eruption had temporarily relieved some pressure in the volcano but there may be more, larger powerful events.

In the Hawaii Volcano Observatory, a webcam caught the consequences of the short-lived eruption: an onslaught of wet, dusty ash raining on a darkened landscape.

News coverage of the Big Island events have been pretty balanced, Tolentino said, but noted that inaccuracies have not helped, especially when a national news outlet reported Oahu residents were forced to evacuate.

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Their concern was that the sinking molten rock would create steam as it interacted with the water table and that the steam would then jet upward, hurling heavy rocks and ash into the sky in a phenomenon known as a phreatic eruption.

Authorities warned citizens to beware of fallen utility lines and poles, and the spread of toxic gas emanating from the ash plumes.

"With stratovolcanoes, when that lava reaches the surface, you get a very sudden expansion of that gas, and this generates a much more violent explosion", Malone said. "I think it's going to be a series of explosions similar to the one that happened this morning, and that's based on what happened in 1924, which is really our only analog".

"We had vases fall down, pictures fall down", one resident said. The state of Hawaii continues to be open for business. Mr Poland said the explosion probably only lasted a few minutes. Michael O'Meally, 23, who lives in Aiea and works in sales in Waikiki, said a friend who works at a Ko Olina resort told him she has fielded several calls from concerned guests.

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Earlier, a change in wind direction caused gas spewing from fissures to drift towards Pahoa, prompting national guard troops to don gas masks at a nearby road intersection.

That activity alongside the East Rift Zone caused a dramatic depressurization of the magma column below Kilauea's summit, which slowly draining the lava lake in the summit crater.

Satterwaite said residents on the Big Island welcomed their help.

The nightmare began on May 3, when the volcano first went off.

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But phreatic eruptions can still pose a deadly threat to anyone near the eruptive vent - and they are extremely hard to forecast, Poland said.

Kilauea volcano erupts, Hawaii hands out 18000 ash masks