Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano continues to break new ground, opening giant fissures in the earth that are spewing lava hundreds of feet into the air. Two new fissures erupted this weekend and prompted officials to evacuate more residents.
Authorities issued evacuation orders via cellphone early Sunday morning when an 18th fissure was discovered, the Associated Press reported. Two shelters opened nearby to house families and pets.
The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported the fissures opened just east of the Puna Geothermal Venture energy-conversion plant, where steam and hot liquid are brought up through underground wells and the steam feeds a turbine generator to produce electricity. Last week, plant workers removed 50,000 gallons of pentane, a highly flammable chemical compound stored at the site, as a precaution, reported the Associated Press.
Meanwhile at the summit, the ground is shaking and tilting as magma drains out of its chambers.
“A robust plume of steam and volcanic gas, occasionally mixed with ash, has risen from the Overlook crater within Halemaumau,” the Hawaii Volcano Observatory said. “Earthquake activity in the summit remains elevated with several strongly felt events at HVO today. Most of these earthquakes are related to the ongoing subsidence of the summit area and earthquakes beneath the south flank of the volcano.”
In other words, the ground is sinking beneath scientists’ feet.
East of the summit, the “activity was dominated by lava fountaining, explosion of spatter bombs hundreds of feet into the air, and several advancing lava flow lobes moving generally northeast” from the new fissures, the U.S. Geological Survey said.
Forty homes and structures have been destroyed so far in this eruption, according to the Associated Press.