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Kilauea volcano continues to threaten homes and neighborhoods

Days after Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano erupted on the Big Island, over 1,700 people are still displaced and unsure when they will find out if their homes are in the path of destruction. Some residents of Leilani Estates, one of two subdivisions evacuated, were allowed to return to their homes today to retrieve pets, medicine, and other important belongings.

Richard Rapoza is a spokesperson for the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency. He told The Weather Channel that the residents “need to get in and out as quickly as possible.”

Rapoza explained that the slow-moving walls of hot lava are in a relatively confined area. “The biggest danger is exposure to the gas,” he said, warning that masks sold in stores are not effective enough to protect people from the harmful effects of the toxic gas in the area, which contains extremely high levels of sulfur dioxide (SO2).

Emergency personnel are wearing devices that monitor SO2 levels, along with specialized gas masks and equipment. Authorities are warning sightseers to stay away from the region altogether.

Last Thursday’s eruption has been followed by an average of one earthquake per hour, the largest of which was a 6.9 magnitude quake on Friday. According to CNN meteorologist Judson Jones, there were also quakes in the days before the volcano exploded, triggered by magma shifting underground.

Molten lava and toxic gas have been pouring out of a total of ten large cracks, or fissures, that continue to open up on the eastern side of the volcano. Walls of fiery lava are scorching the ground and burning everything in their path, including 26 homes and nine buildings.  

It is unclear when the volcanic activity will end, and experts are warning that it could continue for weeks. Hawaii’s Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno said on Sunday, “There’s no sign of this slowing down.”

U.S. Geological Survey volcanologist Wendy Stovall explained that there is more magma present in the system. “As long as that supply is there, the eruption will continue,” said Stovall.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

Image Credit: USGS

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