The Hawaii Fire Department reported extremely high levels of risky sulfur dioxide gas detected in the evacuation area, the Civil Defense Agency said.
The Puna Geothermal plant was shutting down, according to local media, while Hawaii Electric Light said crews were disconnecting power in the areas impacted by the active lava flow. The strongest, a 5.0-magnitude quake, struck on Thursday morning.
Tesha "Mirah" Montoya, 45, said toxic fumes escaping from the lava vents weren't enough to make her family evacuate, but the tipping point were the earthquakes.
Evacuee Ellie Garnett fretted about her four dogs and cat, Scarlet, whom she inadvertently left Thursday during the evacuation.
The most active volcano on Earth has captured our fascination again. "It's hard to keep up".
Fire officials conducted another safety sweep of homes Sunday and watched helplessly as the lava engulfed a green single-story house. The latest quake, which was preceded by several volcanic eruptions, reportedly hit Hawaii's Big Island, the largest island in the Hawaiian archipelago. Volcanic eruptions can release potentially risky sulfur dioxide - and fire department personnel have detected high levels of the gas in the evacuation area, the civil defense agency said. But scientists said new vents could form, and it was impossible to know where. Other residents also mentioned to the news network that they had heard tree branches snapping and could smell the burning bush.
"I felt like the whole side of our hill was going to explode", she said.
"They don't really understand", she said about her children. She's staying at a cabin with her daughter's in-laws. "And I'm enjoying life here, so you know, you put up with a lot of things here".
There were no immediate reports of injuries. Hawaii Gov. David Ige said residents in the area were being sheltered at Pahoa and Kea'au community centers.
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Tina Neal, the scientist in charge of the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, warned distressed residents at a community meeting late Friday that eruptions could last longer than the ones from earlier this week, and earthquakes and aftershocks could continue for days, even weeks.
"There's extra magma within the system to be erupted".
Officials couldn't predict how long Thursday's eruption may last.
"We're all rattled right now", he said. The vents were created by hundreds of small earthquakes that have jolted the region since Monday. Leilani Estates, a subdivision in the mostly rural district of Puna, is at greatest risk. His wife Stella then took a call from an official who told them to get out immediately. Not to mention our fear and respect: 1,700 people had to flee their homes as lava broke the surface near their community Thursday and Friday.
"This is our retirement dream", Henry Calio said.
"The rumbling in the region goes back to mid-March when the cone of the Pu'u O'o crater on Kilauea began to swell and the pressure trapped inside caused the crater floor to collapse on April 30". The collapse caused magma to push more than 10 miles (16 kilometers) downslope toward the populated southeast coastline of the island.
Scientists and volcanologists are now trying to determine the movement of the magma under the volcano. Authorities closed the area to visitors and ordered private tour companies to stop taking people into the region.
In 1924, one person was killed when Kilauea spewed ash and rocks into the sky.