Mass Evacuations After Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano Erupts, Lava Flow Threatens Homes

Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's largest island erupted on Thursday, prompting evacuation orders as lava flows threaten thousands of homes.

The latest alert from the US Geological Survey said that an eruption started just before 5pm local time and lava was confirmed at the surface. The Leilani subdivision area was at "greatest risk", the USGS said, with downslope areas "at risk of lava inundation."

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Videos posted on social media showed a large plume of smoke in the sky and lava spitting from ground vents. Hawaii county's acting mayor declared a state of emergency for the county in the late afternoon.

Hawaii County's Civil Defense Agency issued an alert saying that residents of Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens must evacuate. Authorities said the Pahoa Regional Community Center and Keaau Community Center were open as shelters.

The civil defense authorities noted that evacuating residents should bring an emergency evacuation supply kit, including necessary medicines. Hawaii's geothermal powerplant was said to be taking emergency action and shutting down operations.

Other emergency services are also helping with the evacuation and to monitor the situation.

On Wednesday, scientists at the USGS had warned of a possible imminent eruption. Kilauea is known to frequently bring up lava in short flows that create the volcano's short, wide shape.

"#Lava from #Kilauea #Volcano reached the surface Late in the afternoon today," USGS Volcano's said on Twitter. "A fissure ~150m (492ft) long erupted spatter and intermittent bubble bursts for about 2 hrs. Lava traveled only a few m (yards) from the fissure. #HVO staff are on the ground assessing & monitoring 24/7."

Though the volcano and surrounding areas, a World Heritage Site, are popular with tourists, the National Parks Service closed it off to visitors in April.

Mass Evacuations After Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano Erupts, Lava Flow Threatens Homes | U.S.