The latest eruptions of Kilauea, the most active volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island, have rendered parts of a once-serene neighborhood on the island unrecognizable.
On April 30, the floor of a crater on top of the volcano collapsed, sending its pool of lava back underground and causing small earthquakes. Scientists predicted the magma would travel elsewhere and push its way back to the surface somewhere in the East Rift Zone. They were correct.
Days later, the ground split open on the east side of the island’s Leilani Estates neighborhood, exposing an angry red beneath the lush landscape. From the widening gash, molten rock burbled and splashed, then shot dozens of feet in the air.
The Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency called it “active volcanic fountaining.” Some residents insisted it was Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess, coming to reclaim her land. More than 1,700 residents were ordered to flee amid threats of fires and “extremely high levels of dangerous” sulfur dioxide gas.
Soon, another such fissure had formed a few streets to the west. Then another and another. From the vents, hot steam — and noxious gases — rose, before magma broke through and splattered into the air.
Dozens of earthquakes — including the strongest to hit Hawaii in more than four decades — have jolted the Big Island’s residents, some as they were in the midst of evacuating.
At least 12 fissures have been reported in and around Leilani Estates, according to the county civil defense agency. Lava spouted along the vents and oozed through the neighborhood, leaving lines of smoldering trees in its wake and igniting cars and buildings.
So far, lava has destroyed at least 35 structures, 26 of which were homes, the agency said Monday night.
An ash plume rises above a crater. (U.S. Geological Survey/AP)
Smoke rises from the crater. (Bruce Omori/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
Lava emerges from the ground in a still image obtained from social media. (Jeremiah Osuna/Reuters)
Lava is seen coming from a fissure in the Leilani Estates subdivision on May 3. (Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)
A new fissure erupts on May 5. (U.S. Geological Survey/AP)
Resident Sam Knox, 65, rides his bicycle as lava burns across the road in the Leilani Estates subdivision. (Marco Garcia/AP)
A 2,000-foot-long fissure erupts within the subdivision. (Bruce Omori/Paradise Helicopters/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
Fires caused by lava burn. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Lava from a robust fissure eruption on consumes a home, then threatens another. (Bruce Omori/Paradise Helicopters/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
A Hawaii Volcano Observatory geologist collects samples of spatter for laboratory analysis. (U.S. Geological Survey/AP)
Lava is seen from a fissure behind a resident’s back yard. (Keith Brock/Reuters)
Leilani Estates resident Lucina Aquilina drives near lava in the subdivision. (Jamm Aquino/Honolulu Star-Advertiser/AP)
A helicopter flies above the destruction. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Residents evacuate as lava continues to overrun the streets. (Jamm Aquino/Honolulu Star-Advertiser/AP)
Lava continues to overtake property. (Jamm Aquino/Honolulu Star-Advertiser/AP)
Ground cracking extends across a highway. (U.S. Geological Survey/Getty Images)