Volcano eruption puts $5M dent in Hawaii tourism industry

Ismael LynchMay 16, 2018

Residents near Hawaii's Kilauea volcano faced warnings on Monday that more lava-spewing fissures could open near their homes and that the volcano's summit may be getting ready for an explosion that could scatter ash and debris for miles.

Dr. Jessica Johnson, lecturer in geophysics at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, told Fox News that the worst-case scenario is for "more of the same" in the volcano's lower East Rift Zone."There is the potential for more fissures to open and for the lava to become more voluminous and fast flowing, destroy more homes and infrastructure, even the geothermal power plant", she explained, via email.

Since then, fissures have been generated mostly in Leilani Estates subdivision, where almost 2,000 residents were ordered to evacuate. The number of fissures has been climbing steadily since May 3, when the volcano first erupted, destroying homes and prompting evacuations.

Recently one of the craters of the volcano began to flow out lava into the local region after the lava levels inside the crater dropped significantly on May 2. The new fissure sent gases and lava exploding into the air, the Associated Press reported. The industry grew the fastest on the Big Island past year compared to other islands in the archipelago, pulling in about $2.5 billion in visitor spending.

CBS News correspondent David Begnaud reports from Pahoa that people who live in the area are sleeping at night with gas masks beside the bed just in case the wind shifts direction and toxic fumes start blowing their way. Civil defense officials warn of volcanic gas emissions and active eruptions with this new fissure. No homes or roadways are threatened by this flow.

Geologists warn that Kilauea's summit could have an explosive steam eruption that would hurl huge rocks and ash miles into the sky.

"The key to remember for Kilauea is that most of the eruptions, because they are lava flows, are hazardous to property and infrastructure but not particularly unsafe to people as they can be evacuated", he added.

Hawaii County Civil Defense issued an emergency cellphone alert after the fissure was discovered early Sunday morning.

Residents living near the fissure were told to evacuate and two nearby community centers were serving as shelters for people and pets. Almost 20 fissures have opened up in those two subdivisions, destroying more than two dozen homes since the eruption began May 3.

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