Hawaii volcano spews 9 km-high plume of ash

Hawaii volcano spews 9 km-high plume of ash

A U.S. Geological Survey volcanologist described the pre-dawn explosive eruption at the summit of Kilauea as "short-lived" and not having a "widespread impact".

Scientists reported an "explosive eruption" at the summit of Kilauea volcano shortly before 4:20 a.m. today that ejected a large plume of ash in the air, and authorities urged residents in the path of the ash to shelter in place.

Ash plumes on Tuesday had spouted as high as 12,000 feet (3,657 meters) into the air, scientists said.

Lava continues to spatter from one of the most active volcanic fissures, though the activity has slowed over the last two days.

Lava spattering from an area on the lower east rift of the Kilauea volcano, near Pahoa, Hawaii.

Scientists can not say why the eruption is happening now, given that Kilauea has been active for 35 years. Geologists predicted such a blast would mostly release trapped steam from flash-heated groundwater.

"We had vases fall down, pictures fall down", one resident said. "It's not going to be the only one".

Kanani Aton, a spokeswoman for Hawaii County Civil Defence, said she spoke to several relatives and friends in the town called Volcano.

National guard troops were forced to put on gas masks at a nearby road intersection, according to a Reuters reporter.

The masks do not protect against sulfur dioxide, a toxic gas that is still seeping from 21 fissures caused by volcanic activity.

"It's a real dynamic situation up there", she said of the summit.

Coincidentally, Thursday's explosive event comes one day before the 94th anniversary of that death and on the 38th anniversary of the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens in Washington state.

Most residents found only thin coatings of ash, if they saw any at all, as winds blew much of the 30,000-foot (9,100-metre) plume away from people.

A red aviation code had already been issued - warning pilots to avoid the potentially damaging ash cloud. Passenger jets generally cruise at around 30,000 feet, the height of Thursday's plume.

The noxious gas, normally emitted at unsafe levels only from the volcano's Halemaumau Crater, was seeping at a greater rate from the fissures in Leilani Estates, a residential area of about four square miles in the Big Island's Puna district.

Related news: