For our Hawaii readers and anyone thinking of going to Hawaii, be safe. Latest reports from the big island are that more eruptions can happen at any moment:
A large, 6.9-magnitude quake jolted Hawaii Island on Friday afternoon, just an hour after another sizable quake, amid an ongoing eruption of Kilauea that’s triggered mandatory evacuations in Leilani Estates, sent lava spewing into streets and threatened homes.
Six fissures — each several hundred yard longs — have been confirmed in the Puna subdivision, officials say.
The extent of the damage isn’t yet known, but officials did say at least two structures were significantly damaged and a number of roads have been covered in lava or severely cracked.
“Everything is still elevated,” said Talmadge Magno, administrator of Hawaii County Civil Defense. “It kind of gets you nervous.”
The 6.9-magnitude quake, which happened about 12:30 p.m., was the largest in Hawaii since 1975 and generated small tsunami waves around the Big Island. Hawaii County Civil Defense said sea fluctuations ranged from 8 inches in Hilo to 16 inches at Kapoho.
The temblor, centered on the south flank of Kilauea, was felt as far away as Oahu and triggered several landslides along the Hamakua Coast, including one that closed a lane for several hours.
After the quake, about 14,000 customers lost power in Kaumana, Hilo and Puna. Power has since been restored.
The temblor came about an hour after a 5.4 magnitude shook the Big Island on Friday morning, which was followed by a fifth eruption spewing lava into Leilani Estates. That quake was also centered near the south flank of Kilauea — about 18 kilometers southwest of Leilani Estates, the USGS reported.
The quakes added to an already busy day for the Big Island, which is now grappling with six separate fissures in Leilani Estates.
Hawaii County Civil Defense authorities said the situation in the subdivision continues to get more dangerous and have issued this ominous warning to households that choose not to heed mandatory orders to leave: “First responders may not be able to come to the aid of residents who refuse to evacuate.”
Big Island Mayor Harry Kim reiterated that warning Friday, but also sought to reassure residents, saying they could return to their homes as soon as the area was deemed safe.
“All of us have got to remember this is a tragedy on them and we have to work …. to minimize it as best as possible,” Kim said. “I’m from Puna so I am not going to be a hypocritical. That’s my home and I love Puna. There is no place to me more beautiful … and we know the hazards.”
The six eruptions, the latest of which started just five minutes after the large quake, are threatening entire sections of the subdivision. Dramatic images from the subdivision show lava bubbling up from the ground and soaring more than 100 feet in the air. Residents described the sound of the eruptions as haunting — “hissing” and “like a freight train.”
So far, officials have confirmed breakouts on Mohala Street, Kaupili Street, Makamae Street and near Kahukai Street and Leilani Avenue.
Civil Defense said all Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens subdivision residents are required to evacuate immediately.
Kim also said though the eruptions are mainly affecting this particular region of Puna, surrounding areas should also be on alert. “In regards to activity of lava itself, yes, we’re gonna monitor it very carefully and be ready to evacuate or identify different areas,” Kim said.
In addition to the large quake, the Big Island continues to get rattled by smaller tremors.
Resident Ikaika Marzo said he could feel several quakes shake the area in the early morning hours before the second eruption in the community around 1:30 a.m. The new eruptions Friday come in the wake of the volcano’s first fissure in the community on Thursday afternoon.
The first eruption in the subdivision started Thursday afternoon and had ended by about 6:30 p.m., after creating a fissure that sent lava soaring as high as 125 feet into the air. About 10:30 p.m., geologists confirmed the fissure (whose length was not immediately clear) was no longer erupting.
They stressed, however, that new lava outbreaks remain a possibility.
“The opening phases of fissure eruptions are dynamic and uncertain. It is not possible at this time to say when and where new vents may occur,” the observatory said, in its latest update. “Areas downslope of an erupting fissure or vent are at risk of lava inundation. At this time, the general area of the Leilani subdivision appears at greatest risk.”