High Alert: Hawaii rocked by strongest quake in 40 years as Kilauea volcano sparks fountains of lava
The strongest earthquake in 43 years struck Hawaii’s Big Island near the volcanic eruption at Kilauea which has forced residents to flee their homes.
The earthquake hit about 12.33pm Friday and was centered near the south flank of Kilauea volcano. It is the strongest earthquake to hit Hawaii since 1975 when a magnitude 7.1 struck in the same area, according to US Geological Survey records.
The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center says the quake wasn’t strong enough to cause a tsunami but several reports do state that there were small tsunami waves around the Big Island. No tsunami threat or advisory has been put in place.
The state transportation department said on Twitter that no damage has been reported to roads but there has been more than 14,000 utility customers without power.
‘It’s kind of like being on some kind of carnival ride if you will. We are being shaken all the time,’ said Rhea Lee-Moku, a spokeswoman for Hawaii Electric Light.
She added that half the customers have had their power restored.
Another 5.7 magnitude tremor was said to have hit the island earlier on Friday. US Geological Survey seismologist Jana Pursley told CNN there had been 119 earthquakes on the Big Island since Thursday afternoon.
Before the quake, Hawaii County Civil Defense said a new vent opened near an intersection. There has been no activity at a geothermal power plant, which had been taken offline.
Hawaii National Guard spokesman Maj. Jeff Hickman added that the Hilo airport and highways didn’t sustain any damage from Friday’s magnitude-6.9 quake.
Hawaii County spokeswoman Janet Snyder also said the county has yet to conduct a full damage assessment.
Four to five landslides occurred along the Hamakau Coast on the Big Island, according to the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency.
‘That’s part of being on an active volcano, unfortunately,’ Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno said, CNN reports.
Big Island Mayor Harry Kim stressed that families would be notified when it was safe for them to return to their homes.
State Sen. Russell Ruderman added he could feel strong shaking in Hilo. He stated that merchandise fell off the shelves in a natural food store he owns. He also felt shaking during an earlier magnitude-5.7 earthquake.
He continued by describing how residents are stressed out about earthquakes while coping with a lava threat from Kilauea volcano that has burned two homes.
Residents also claimed that they could feel the tremors all the way out at Oahu and Kauai, KHON reported.
Two shelters have been made available for evacuees, with one at the Pahoa Community Center and the other at the Keaau Community center. 200 residents have been said to be at these shelters by Friday afternoon.
The Kilauea volcano sent more lava into Hawaii communities Friday, a day after forcing more than 1,500 people to flee from their mountainside homes, and authorities detected high levels of sulfur gas that could threaten the elderly and people with breathing problems.
The eruption that began with lava flying into the sky from a crack in a road continued with reports of molten rock spurting from several volcanic vents. Neighborhoods downhill from the vents were at risk of being covered up. At least two homes were destroyed, officials said.
Julie Woolsey lives on a street where a vent opened up and channeled lava to within 1,000 yards (914 meters) of her house. When it appeared, she freed her chickens, loaded her dogs into her truck and evacuated with her daughter and grandson.
‘We knew we were building on an active volcano,’ she said, recalling how she purchased the lot on the Big Island for $35,000 more than a decade ago after living on Maui became too expensive. But she thought the danger from lava was a remote possibility.
‘You can’t really predict what Pele is going to do,’ she said, referring to the Hawaiian volcano goddess. ‘It’s hard to keep up. We’re hoping our house doesn’t burn down.’
The community of Leilani Estates near the town of Pahoa appeared to be in the greatest danger. Authorities also ordered an evacuation of Lanipuna Gardens, a smaller, more rural subdivision directly to the east. But scientists said new vents could form, and it was impossible to know where.
Civil defense officials cautioned the public about high levels of sulfur dioxide near the volcano and urged vulnerable people to leave immediately. Exposure to the gas can cause irritation or burns, sore throats, runny noses, burning eyes and coughing.
Maija Stenback began to get nervous when she noticed cracks in the streets near her home. On Thursday, she shot video of the lava as it bubbled and splattered across a street about six blocks from her house.