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Thousands evacuated after Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano erupts

The Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island erupted late Thursday afternoon with lava spewing into residential areas and cutting through the forest. Video footage of the event shows fiery lava flows spewing debris and clouds of ash and smoke.

Volcanoes are common in Hawaii and Kilauea is one of the most active volcanoes in the world.

Earlier throughout the week, hundreds of earthquakes were reported in the area of the volcano, the largest being a 5.0 which prompted mandatory evacuations in residential areas near Kilauea.

Since Monday, hundreds of earthquakes (most at a 2.0) were recorded in the area due to the collapse of a crater floor near the Kilauea.

The tremors, though mostly small, were a major nuisance to residents nearby.

“It has now become unnerving,” Carol Shepard, a Big Island resident told CNN. “It’d be like the house would shake. It’d be like somebody that weighs 300 pounds came in my living room, and jumped up and down.”

Evacuations were issued for residents of Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens and around 1500 people left their homes as part of the orders.

The eruption occurred in the lower East Rift Zone of the Kilauea Volcano, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS).

The USGS also reported that although the flows are no longer active, there remain concerns about sulfur dioxide, and sulfur gas has been observed in the area near the fissure.

Exposure to sulfur dioxide can be life threatening and high levels of the toxic gas have been detected.

Evacuees will wait to return until it’s deemed safe, and the volatile nature of the eruption has many wondering if there is more to come in the next few days.

“This stuff could go on for a couple days, weeks or months,” Leilani Estates residents Maja Stenback told the Washington Post. “Just the thought of everything now being gone — it’s just not real yet. Maybe the next time we go there the house might be under 30 feet of lava.”

By Kay Vandette, Staff Writer

Image Credit: Kevan Kamibayashi / U.S. Geological Survey

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