Days later, the ground split open on the east side of the island’s Leilani Estates neighborhood, 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.
Officials called it “active volcanic fountaining.” Some residents insisted it was Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess, coming to reclaim her land. Hundreds of residents were ordered to flee amid threats of fires and 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.
Dozens of earthquakes — including the strongest to hit Hawaii in more than four decades — have jolted the Big Island’s residents, some as they were in the midst of evacuating.
Fifteen fissures have been reported in and around Leilani Estates. Lava spouted along the vents and oozed through the neighborhood, leaving lines of smoldering trees in its wake and igniting cars and buildings.
So far, lava has covered at least 116 acres on the island, destroying 36 structures, including more than two dozen homes.