Hawaii's erupting volcano hits tourism industry

Casey Dawson
May 15, 2018

Almost 20 fissures have opened since the Kilauea volcano started erupting 12 days ago, and officials warn it may soon blow its top with a massive steam eruption that would shoot boulders and ash miles into the sky.

Many people have been evacuated from their homes.

A new volcanic fissure on Hawaii's Big Island sent gases and lava exploding into the air, prompting officials to issue calls for more evacuations as residents awaited a possible major eruption at Kilauea volcano's summit.

The general public is being warned to avoid the area of fissures, said Alvin C. Bronstein, Hawaii State Department of Health's EMS chief, because the gases emitted require cartridge respirators.

Hawaii Fire Department reports that fissures in the southeast area of Lanipuna Gardens area are issuing high levels of Sulfur Dioxide gas at this time.

Authorities say the volcano has produced almost 20 active lava fissures and destroyed more than two dozen homes.

The volcanic vents, or fissures, have gobbled up dozens of homes and vehicles, with 37 structures so far destroyed.

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The Big Island tourism board estimates $5 million worth of cancellations from May through July.

Hawaii's Volcanic National Park is visited by more than 2 million visitors every year and pumps over NZ $3 billion into the local economy.

"Be aware of the unpredictable nature of risky levels of SO2 gas because it can be carried far from the fissures with wind speed and direction", civil defence said in a Facebook post.

The U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said the flow from the crack that emerged Sunday was heading on a path that would take it to the ocean, about three kilometres away. There was "an immediate impact" after the Kilauea volcano first erupted. Lave tore through farmland toward a coastal dirt road, which is one of the last open exit routes for 2,000 residents in the southeast area of Hawaii's Big Island.

These are steam-driven explosions that occur when water beneath the ground or on the surface is heated by magma, lava, hot rocks, or new volcanic deposits, according to USGS. Officials fear the unpredictability of the volcano, and how long the eruption will last is unclear.

In this Sunday, May 6, 2018 photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, a lava flow moves across Makamae Street in the Leilani Estates subdivision near Pahoa on the island of Hawaii.

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