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Major quake hits Hawaii, prompts further volcano eruptions

  • Published at 08:30 pm May 5th, 2018
Major quake hits Hawaii, prompts further volcano eruptions

A magnitude 6.9 earthquake shook Hawaii's Big Island on Friday, prompting fresh eruptions of a volcano that has been spewing lava near residential areas, forcing hundreds of people to flee.

The US Geological Survey said the quake struck at 2232 GMT and was centred on the south flank of the Kilauea volcano, which first erupted on Thursday after a series of tremors.

"This is in almost exactly the same location as the deadly 1975 M 7.1 quake," USGC said in a tweet.

That quake killed two people and injured 28.

Another 5.7-magnitude tremor had hit the island earlier on Friday and authorities said they expect more seismic activity.

The quakes have prompted the Kilauea volcano, one of five active on the island, to erupt.

Drone and video footage showed orange magma gushing up from cracks in the ground and snaking through a wooded area.

Molten lava could also be seen bubbling up through cracks on streets in the Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens neighborhood where residents were ordered to evacuate on Thursday.

The area is home to about 1,700 people and 770 structures. The broader district potentially impacted by the threat is home to some 10,000 people.

No injuries have been reported but several homes were said to have been destroyed or badly damaged on Friday, authorities said.

Dangerous gas warning

Officials urged any remaining residents to evacuate and warned of extremely high levels of toxic fumes.

"Hawaii Fire Department reports extremely dangerous air quality conditions due to high levels of sulphur dioxide gas in the evacuation area," the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency said.

"Elderly, young and people with respiratory issues need to comply with the mandatory evacuation order and leave the area," said a statement from the mayor's office.

Governor David Ige said residents were being housed in community centres until the danger from Kilauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes, has passed.

The lava outbreak came after hundreds of small earthquakes in recent days that followed the collapse of a crater floor on the Puu Oo volcanic cone.

A 5.0-magnitude earthquake early Thursday south of the cone triggered rockfalls and potential additional collapse of the crater, USGS said.

It sent a short-lived but massive pink plume of ash wafting into the air.

Big Island resident Janice Wei, who moved to Hawaii from California -- known for its own high earthquake risk -- said the eruption was almost a "relief."

"We've been waiting for big movement from the crater, after so many small earthquakes," she told AFP.

"Hawaiians and local people have lived here forever," she said. "You know what's going on; we have warning systems.

"Everybody should be prepared."