More residents of Hawaii's Big Island have been told to evacuate as fast moving lava threatens homes and businesses after a new, explosive eruption took place at Kilauea's summit crater Saturday as well as the emergence of fresh, faster flowing lava throughout the region. Some 22 fissures have opened up in the lower Puna district since the eruptions began over two weeks ago, claiming at least 44 structures in the affluent Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens subdivisions.
Residents across the Ka'u region have been advised to prepare for "rapid changes in air quality" due to the potential for ashfall or increased levels of sulfur dioxide.
As of Sunday morning, powerful lava flows had crossed a highway and begun flowing into the Pacific ocean - sending "hydrochloric acid and steam with fine glass particles into the air," according to County officials.
USGS scientists also announced on Saturday that fissures are now merging and connecting to other lava flows in the area. Fissures 16 and 20 have merged together and are producing a very voluminous line of spatter and lava fountaining.
The combined lava flow from fissure 20 advanced 1,000 feet in less than an hour early Saturday morning, and moved toward the coast at a rate of 300 yards per hour.
The eruptions took a particularly dangerous turn on Friday, with at least five separate fissures spitting out fresher, hotter lava from Kilauea's summit. -Hawaii News Now
"With fresher, hotter magma, there's the potential that the lava flows can move with greater ease and therefore cover more area," said Janet Babb, USGS geologist, earlier in the day.
#LeilaniEstatesEruption #KilaueaVolcano #HAPPENINGNOW: An incredible new image of the sun rising over Puna as pāhoehoe lava enters the ocean off of Mālama Flats after crossing Hwy137 Saturday night https://t.co/5VbbwlSLxd @HawaiiNewsNow #HINews #HawaiiNews (Photo: Dave Okita) pic.twitter.com/6PrlnbEaou— Mileka Lincoln (@MilekaLincoln) May 20, 2018
"The rift zone is being forced apart," added Steve Brantley of the USGS. "I think clearly it points to the potential for additional eruptive activity" in lower Puna.
#LeilaniEstatesEruption #KilaueaVolcano LATEST: Unbelievable new aerial footage shows where last night’s fast-moving pāhoehoe flow crossed Pohoʻiki Road southeast of Hinalo Street through #LanipunaGardens; @CivilDefenseHI UPDATE👉🏽 https://t.co/7uq9mJI53h @HawaiiNewsNow #HINews pic.twitter.com/ZSMsfaa5K4— Mileka Lincoln (@MilekaLincoln) May 19, 2018
#BREAKING #LeilaniEstatesEruption #KilaueaVolcano MANDATORY EVACUATION: @CivilDefenseHI confirms active lava flows have caused brush fires to spread toward Kamaʻili Rd in Opihikao. Residents need to evacuate immediately https://t.co/CVD2oBGFkQ @HawaiiNewsNow #HINews #HawaiiNews pic.twitter.com/ZK2zGpm83Z— Mileka Lincoln (@MilekaLincoln) May 20, 2018
#LeilaniEstatesEruption #KilaueaVolcano LATEST: We’re #LIVE from the lower East Rift Zone at 12p, but here’s a USGS update: Fountaining is occurring at Fissure 17, and Fissures 16-20 have merged into a continuous line https://t.co/9RTtuHGhsG (Video: Ikaika Marzo) @HawaiiNewsNow pic.twitter.com/vRXhizVFEO— Mileka Lincoln (@MilekaLincoln) May 19, 2018
New video shows lava in the Lanipuna Gardens subdivision claiming another home, at least the 28th that has been destroyed by the Kilauea eruptions. https://t.co/CiSNf9Brdn #HINews pic.twitter.com/btBD2JzeuY— Hawaii News Now (@HawaiiNewsNow) May 19, 2018
Footage of a man losing his home taken by Lava News can be seen below. The description in the video reads "After non-stop truck loads to Higher Ground the owner retreated only minutes before his house was taken. He wasn't interested in seeing it happen with his own eyes so we recorded it for him with his permission."
Meanwhile, a man's leg was destroyed after a "lava bomb" hit him while he was on his 3rd floor balcony, marking the first serious injury from the eruption.
The lava flew through the air and landed on the man's leg, spokeswoman Janet Snyder said. "It hit him on the shin, and shattered everything from there down on his leg," Snyder added.
The man was reportedly transported to the hospital with serious injuries. -Hawaii News Now
On Wednesday, around 125 shallow quakes rattled Kilauea's summit and nearby communities, causing minor damage to structures and roads. The strongest quake in the area was a magnitude 4.4, and dozens more have been upwards of magnitude 3.
"It's been like hell," said resident Ikaika Marzo, who has been helping get much-needed information to those in lower Puna.
He described the sounds of lava in the area as 10 or 20 jets taking off at once and right in your backyard. "It's like huge grenades going off," he said. "It shakes the whole community."
The ongoing volcanic activity prompted civil defense authorities to urge extreme caution for anyone still in lava-ravaged areas. -Hawaii News Now
"Everything is so uncertain. It's really nerve-wracking," said Debbie Kalaluhi, who can see the ongoing eruption of fissure no. 17 from her backyard. "You're very on edge. You have to really see it to believe it."