Hawaii volcano erupts from summit, shooting plume of ash

An eruption from the Kilauea volcano's summit shot ash and smoke into the air early Thursday on Hawaii's Big Island

The mayor of Hawaii said the eruption site and the lava flow are in a very small portion of the island.

A webcam at the Hawaii Volcano Observatory caught the aftermath of the short-lived eruption: an onslaught of wet, dusty ash raining on a darkened landscape. Passenger jets generally cruise at around 30,000 feet, the height of Thursday's plume.

Poland said the explosion likely only lasted a few minutes and that ash accumulations were minimal, with likely trace amounts near the volcano and at the town, named Volcano.

But clearly, not everyone was so anxious.

So far, about 40 homes and other buildings have been destroyed by the red-hot lava that has been flowing from the volcano since early this month.

Residents are being told to take shelter from the ash as toxic gas levels spiked in a small southeast area where lava has burst from the ground during this two-week eruption.

"It's a real dynamic situation up there", she said of the summit.

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Glenn Severance, 65, a resident of Hawaii Paradise Park, said: "It was just thick, eyes watering kinda stuff".

"Protect yourself from ash fallout", it said.

"I think it's going to be a series of explosions similar to the one that happened this morning, and that's based on what happened in 1924, which is really our only analog", he said of the almost century old event, which lasted 2-1/2 weeks and killed one person who was hit by a "ballistic block". Due to elevated sulfur dioxide levels in the area, local schools are also closed, Hawaii County Civil Defense said.

"With ash eruptions occurring from Kilauea's summit this week, there is a threat of an even larger steam-driven violent explosion". Whereas St. Helens sits along the geologically active boundary of the Pacific Plate, Kilauea and the other Hawaiian volcanoes are powered by inside the Earth's mantle.

Steam-driven blasts launched "ballistic blocks" into a visitors' vehicle park as residents were ordered to take cover by authorities following Thursday's Kilauea blast at 4.15am local time (3.15pm BST).

News coverage of the Big Island events have been pretty balanced, Tolentino said, but noted that inaccuracies have not helped, especially when a national news outlet reported Oahu residents were forced to evacuate.

Thursday's event was, if not the big one, then certainly a big one, researchers said.

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