Hawaii's Kilauea volcano erupts, evacuation ordered

Following multiple earthquakes, the volcano erupted, releasing lava into residential neighbourhoods

Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano has erupted, releasing lava into residential neighbourhoods and prompting mandatory evacuation orders for nearby houses.

Hawaii County said steam and lava poured out of a crack in Leilani Estates, which is near the town of Pahoa on the Big Island. Residents in the Puna community, home to about 10,000 people, were ordered to evacuate.

Earlier, hundreds of earthquakes shook the eastern side of the Big Island.

County, state and federal officials had been warning residents all week that they should be prepared to evacuate, as an eruption would give little warning. Nearby community centres have opened for shelter.

The US Geological Survey revised the magnitude of the most severe quake to a 5, from the 4.6 reported earlier. It hit at 10:30 a.m. local time on Thursday.

Within half an hour, two more quakes came, registering at 2.5 and 2.7. There have been a total of six smaller earthquakes since the biggest one, the agency said.

County spokeswoman Janet Snyder said authorities have issued a mandatory evacuation order for a portion of Leilani Estates, a subdivision in the Puna District on Hawaii Island.

One resident said lava fountains were shooting 150ft (45 metres) in to the air through a crack in the volcano.

Ikaika Marzo told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that lava spread out over an area about 200 yards (182 metres) wide behind one house in Leilani Estates on Thursday. He said it sounded like a jet engine.

The US Geological Survey said new ground cracks were reported on Thursday afternoon. Hot vapour emerged from a crack and spattering lava began to erupt.

Geologist Janet Babb said the magma crossed under Highway 130, which leads to a popular volcano access point, on Tuesday night.

Hawaii County civil defence agency closed the area to visitors and ordered private tour companies to stop taking people into the region.

Most of Kilauea’s activity has been nonexplosive, but a 1924 eruption spewed ash and 10-ton (9-tonne) of rocks into the sky, leaving one man dead.

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