18th Lava-Spewing Fissure in Hawaii Volcano Leads to New Evacuations

Officials in Hawaii have called for more evacuations after an 18th fissure spewing lava from the Kilauea volcano was discovered Sunday on the Big Island. 

“The amount of lava that has erupted from the fissure so far is very, very small,” said scientist Steve Brantley of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. Exploding and sloshing sounds from the fissure, however, could be heard from as far as 1,400 meters away.

“The situation remains unstable,” USGS scientist Tina Neal added. “Additional outbreaks of lava are likely.” 

Experts say there is a continuing threat that the lava could drop below the water table. If that happens, water could pour onto the hot lava and produce enough steam to explode from the summit in a shower of ash and debris. Rocks “the size of cows” could be hurled as far as 800 meters from the site of the blast, according to one expert who spoke to local media. 

On Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump declared the volcano-affected area a major disaster area, making federal funds available to help state and local governments cope with the eruption and its aftermath. The volcano began erupting May 3.

The Kilauea volcano has been erupting periodically for more than three decades. Lava flows from the volcano, one of five on the island, have buried an area about 125 square kilometers, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Scientists say they cannot predict how long the current eruption will last.