Hawaii asks Trump to declare state of disaster for volcano eruption

Hannah Rogers
May 12, 2018

Steam and gas rise in Leilani Estates in the aftermath of the Kilauea volcano eruption on Hawaii's Big Island, May 10, 2018, in Pahoa, Hawaii. But Kilauea could release hotter, faster-moving and more voluminous lava because magma has moving into the area from further up the volcano, she said. It is eventually released through an explosion, sending extremely hot steam, rocks, gases and volcanic ash forcibly upward.

Geologists are warning a possible explosion at the summit of Kilauea could be the largest in almost 100 years, hurling boulders the size of refridgerators. Fifteen of the vents are now spread through the Leilani Estates and neighboring Lanipuna Gardens neighborhoods.

Authorities also ordered workers to remove flammable pentane from a geothermal plant that is near communities that saw lava oozed from cracks in the ground.

It would be "very, very hazardous" if a volcanic vent opened under the facility where the fuel is stored, the governor said.

The Puna Geothermal Venture is owned by Nevada company Ormat Technologies. It's been sluggish and somewhat cooler as a result, she said. The coffee farms on the Kona side of the island, which is more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) away from where lava is erupting.

Since last week, lava has been siphoning away for the volcano's summit, breaking through the ground in the 15 fissures.

That explosion killed one person and sent rocks, ash and dust into the air for 17 days.

"What we've already been seeing is that chunks of the surrounding vents are just dropping off into the lava and that's why we're getting these small explosions", said Jessica Johnson, a volcanologist at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom.

Once the lava drops, rocks that had been superheated could fall into the lava tube.

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Don Swanson, a geologist with the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, said the magma is likely to drop below the water table around the middle of the month. The last major one occurred in 1924 and spanned more than 2½ weeks, with more than 50 explosive events.

"We suspect it's a rapid process".

He said: "We know the volcano is capable of doing this".

No one lives in the immediate area of the summit crater.

More destructive lava flows could soon hit Hawaii's Big Island as the Kilauea volcano erupts, posing a greater threat than oozing magma that has so far destroyed dozens of homes and forced thousands to evacuate, scientists said.

"It seems pretty safe to me right now, but they'd know best", said Cindy Woodd, who was visiting from British Columbia, Canada.

Officials with the agency wouldn't estimate the likelihood of such an explosion, but called it a "distinct possibility". "Life and safety is what's most important".

A salmonella outbreak that led to the massive recall of 207 million eggs has worsened - with 35 people reported ill in several states, federal health officials said. But some ignored the order and stayed to watch over their property. They evacuated their home May 3 and found out it was destroyed when a relative went back to get some belongings.

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