Some 1,500 people were evacuated late Thursday from a small residential area after Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano erupted, sending lava snaking through a forest, spurting from a 500-foot crack, and flowing down a residential street.
Hawaii Gov. David Ige issued a mandatory evacuation order for the Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens subdivisions and activated the National Guard to help with evacuations and security.
There were no immediate reports of injuries.
At one point, lava fountains were shooting 150 feet in the air, and molten lava spread out over an area about 200 yards wide behind one house in Leilani Estates, Big Island resident Ikaika Marzo told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser .
“It sounds like a jet engine. It’s going hard,” he said.
The evacuees were sheltering at two community centers near the town of Pahoa on the Big Island.
“The danger is of such magnitude that it warrants preemptive and protective action in order to provide for the safety, health and welfare of the residents of Leilani Estates and surrounding areas,” Ige tweeted.
Resident Jeremiah Osuna captured drone footage of the lava burning through the trees, a scene he described as a “curtain of fire.”
“It sounded like if you were to put a bunch of rocks into a dryer and turn it on as high as you could. You could just smell sulfur and burning trees and underbrush and stuff,” he told Honolulu television station KHON.
Officials said there is no way to predict how long the eruption will continue or what shape it will take.
After the 500-foot fissure appeared in Leilani Estates, it generated mostly spatter and intermittent bubble bursts for about two hours, with lava stopping after only a few yards, according to the Hawaiian Volcanic Observatory, but could start again at any moment.
The eruption comes after days of earthquakes rattled the area’s Puna district. A nearby school was closed due to the ongoing seismic activity and several roadways cracked under the strain of the constant temblors. A magnitude 5.0 earthquake was recorded hours before the eruption began Thursday.
The Puu Oo crater floor began to collapse Monday, triggering a series of earthquakes and pushing the lava into new underground chambers.
The collapse caused magma to push more than 10 miles downslope toward the populated southeast coastline of the island.
USGS geologist Janet Babb said the magma crossed under Highway 130, which leads to a popular volcano access point, on Tuesday night.