Hawaii Kilauea Volcano Update: Explosions Continue to Plague Island Nearly 40 Days After Initial Eruption

Another small explosion occurred at Hawaii's Kilauea volcano Sunday morning, spewing ash plumes over Kau, the southernmost district of Big Island. The eruption comes 38 days after Kilauea's initial explosion which sent ash, lava and toxic gases throughout Hawaii's largest island.

The historic eruption, which began on May 3rd, has so far destroyed 600 homes, sent 2,500 residents into evacuation and released enough burning-hot magma to cover all of Manhattan in 6.5 feet of lava, according to the USGS. "I'm talking about 600 families. Don't forget the farmers, don't forget the ranchers, don't forget all the employees for them," Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim said of the destruction on Thursday. Kim's home was among those destroyed by the volcano.

The lava that continues to rain from Kilauea has reached a new high temperature of 2,140 degrees Fahrenheit. "This is the hottest lava we've seen during this eruption," said Wendy Stovall, a scientist with USGS on Hawaii News Now. "Lava can't get hotter than where we are."

Sulfur Dioxide emissions coming from a number of ground fissures caused by the active volcano still remain elevated. The pungent chemical compound can cause respiratory problems in low doses and can be deadly when found in large concentrations. "Severe conditions may exist such as choking and inability to breathe," wrote the county of Hawaii civil defense agency. "This is a serious situation that affects the entire exposed population."

Kilauea also continues to spew airborne glass fibers, known as "Pele's Hair." The light strings of volcanic glass can travel great distances, but are dangerous to touch or inhale.

For now the volcano shows no signs of slowing its eruption. Since early May there have been more than 500 earthquakes, lava has covered nearly 8 miles of land and lava-flow half a mile wide has made entry to the ocean. When lava interacts with seawater it forms a toxic mix of acid fumes, glass, and steam that can be dangerous to boaters and nearby residents.

Kilauea is now the most devastating volcanic eruption on U.S. soil since the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption in Washington State, according to Scott Rowland, a volcano specialist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

While no deaths have been reported, Hawaii residents and local government officials face a long, expensive cleanup and recovery process. Hawaii Governor David Ige allocated $12 million to immediate disaster relief late last week but the island will likely need much more in long-term disaster funding once the active volcano is under control.

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Onlookers watch as lava from a Kilauea volcano fissure erupts in Leilani Estates, on Hawaii's Big Island, on May 26, 2018 in Pahoa, Hawaii. The Big Island, one of eight main islands that make up Hawaii state, is struggling with tourist bookings following the Kilauea volcano eruptions, with summer bookings down 50 percent. Mario Tama/Getty Images
Hawaii Kilauea Volcano Update: Explosions Continue to Plague Island Nearly 40 Days After Initial Eruption | U.S.
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