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Lava eruptions and earthquakes rattle Hawaii island

  • Jaggar Museum overlook following earthquake

    Lava that spattered from a fissure ignited utility poles and vegetation Friday on Kaupili Street in Leilani Estates.


    Vegetation went up in flames as molten lava oozed through several fissures.


    Hawaii county mayor Harry Kim talked with U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard during a community meeting to address concerns on Friday in Pahoa.


    A street in Puna had little pedestrian traffic on Friday.


    Evacuees are seen in silhouette inside the American Red Cross evacuation shelter in Pahoa.

Madame Pele was working overtime Friday as Kilauea Volcano tormented Lower Puna for the second day in a row with a series of potent earthquakes and lava eruptions that claimed at least three structures in the Leilani Estates subdivision.

Hawaii County police and Civil Defense officials were joined by 70 members of the Hawaii National Guard to maintain a mandatory evacuation and closure of Leilani Estates and surrounding streets as a half-dozen fissures on the eastern end of the subdivision were either spewing molten lava or expelling dangerous sulfur dioxide gas.

About 1,800 residents from Leilani Estates and nearby Lanipuna Gardens subdivisions were evacuated after the first vent opened up Thursday afternoon with fountains and spattering lava off Mohala Street.

As of noon Friday more than 200 people had taken up residence at designated shelters at Pahoa and Keaau community centers, according to the Red Cross.

The volcanic vents — each several hundred yards long — were found on Makamae, Kaupili and Mohala streets as well as near Kahukai Street and Pohoiki Road, officials said.

Hawaiian Volcano Observatory officials said sizable lava flows have yet to materialize, as spattering lava was building up mostly within a couple dozen yards of the vents.

But scientists said there’s no sign that the eruption is ending.

“I think the situation in Leilani Estates is still very dynamic,” Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geologist Janet Babb said Friday afternoon. “The seismicity is still there, the deformation is still there and the event is not over.”

The rash of volcanic activity, she said, is consistent with the continued migration of magma across the East Rift Zone, which extends from the Puu Oo vent to Lower Puna.

“This means that the eruption can continue and that new fissures can open with little warning, and people need to remain vigilant,” Babb said.


If anyone was complacent Friday about the power of Pele, they might have been jolted to their senses by a magnitude-6.9 earthquake — Hawaii’s strongest since 1975.

The temblor rattled East Hawaii at 12:33 p.m., causing 1,440 Hawaii Electric Light Co. customers in Hilo to lose power for a few hours and items to be knocked from shelves in stores and homes.

>> Related Video: Residents brace as earthquake rattles home (mobile app users, click here)

Centered about 10 miles southwest of Leilani Estates, the quake was the strongest of a series of earthquakes and aftershocks that shook the Big Island all day. It was the largest Hawaii quake since the 1975 magnitude-7.1 earthquake, which killed two people, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The two quakes were centered in almost exactly the same location.

No significant tsunami was generated from the event, officials said, but some areas did experience small sea-level fluctuations. Hawaii County Civil Defense said sea-level changes of 8 inches in Hilo, 16 inches in Kapoho and 6 inches in Honuapo followed the earthquake.

A magnitude-5.4 earthquake struck the same region at 11:30 a.m., while a 4.6-magnitude earthquake was recorded offshore of Kalapana at 3:20 p.m.

The Hilo Federal Building at 154 Waianuenue Ave., which includes the Hilo Downtown Post Office, was shut down because of structural concerns after the earthquakes. Post office officials said beginning today and until further notice, Hilo Downtown’s P.O. box customers are asked to pick up their mail over the counter at the Hilo Main Post Office, 1299 Kekuanaoa St.


At Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, rangers evacuated visitors and nonemergency staff after the quake triggered rockslides on park trails, crater walls and along sections of Chain of Craters Road.

A quake earlier in the day caused a coastal cliff to collapse into the ocean near the Holei Sea Arch, while narrow cracks appeared in the ground at an overlook near Jaggar Museum. Throughout the day, rocks fell into the lava lake within Halemaumau Crater at the volcano’s summit, pushing dark ash clouds into the sky that could be seen for miles.

The park — including the Kahuku Unit — will remain closed until it is deemed safe to reopen, the park said.

>> Related Video: Cracks begin to show in Mohala Street (mobile app users, click here)


The 6.9 quake was felt throughout the region and even by some across the state, officials reported.

State Sen. Russell Ruderman of Keaau said items were falling off the shelf while he was at Island Naturals, his Hilo natural food store, when the earthquake struck. He then drove to his home in Keaau to find lots of items broken — picture frames, crystal — that were knocked off shelves.

“If I have things breaking in Keaau (about 17 miles away), then people somewhere had structural damage,” he said.

Guests at the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel felt the quake.

Karla Redding of Kailua was in her sixth-floor room looking out at the ocean when the floor and lampshades started shaking and swinging. “It was at least 30 seconds, but it seemed longer,” she said.

Hotel bellman Alan Shinkai said he was in the elevator during the quake. “I wanted to reach the ground as fast as possible,” he said.

Hilo resident Bobbie Stivers-Apiki was at the hotel for a convention of the Hawaii Region Y Service Clubs.

“Things started shaking side to side,” Stivers-Apiki said. “That was huge, the longest I ever felt.”

>> Related Video: Simultaneous action at Kilauea during Puna quake (mobile users, click here)

Earlier in the day, Gov. David Ige traveled to Hawaii island for briefings with Mayor Harry Kim and the Hawaii County Civil Defense before touring the evacuation shelters at Pahoa and Keaau.

Ige said he met people who were frightened and concerned about losing their homes and possessions.

“My heart goes out to these families,” Ige said in a statement. “I reassured them that the county, state and the federal governments are working together to do everything in our power to help them get through this, to ensure their welfare and safety, and to assure them that we are here for the long haul. This is a resilient community. Even during this frightening and unpredictable time — these residents are pulling together, donating food, water and time to care for their neighbors.”


Star-Advertiser staff writers Susan Essoyan, Leila Fujimori and Dan Nakaso contributed to this report.

For more volcano coverage, visit

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