Indonesia Orders Evacuations As The Volatile Mount Merapi Erupts

Indonesian authorities raised the alert for the volatile Mount Merapi volcano on the densely populated island of Java and ordered people within 3 kilometers (2 miles) to evacuate.

Merapi has erupted four times since Monday, sending out a 3,500 meter (11,483 feet) column of volcanic material and dusting the surrounding region in ash.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, the national disaster mitigation agency’s spokesman, said some 660 people living within the exclusion zone have evacuated since early Tuesday.

Indonesia’s geological agency raised Merapi’s alert from normal to “beware,” because of its increased activity.

There have been no reports of casualties and operations at Adi Sucipto airport in Yogyakarta have not been affected.

The 2,968-meter (9,737-foot) mountain is about 30 kilometers (18 miles) from the Yogyakarta city center. About a quarter million people live within a 10 kilometer radius of the volcano, according to figures from authorities in surrounding districts. Its last major eruption in 2010 killed 347 people and caused the evacuation of 20,000 villagers.

Nugroho said climbing on Merapi is prohibited and only disaster agency personnel or related researchers should enter the restricted area.

Indonesia, an archipelago of more than 250 million people, sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire” and is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Indonesian government seismologists monitor more than 120 active volcanoes.

Lava From Hawaii Volcano Enters Ocean, Creating Toxic Cloud

White plumes of acid and extremely fine shards of glass billowed into the sky over Hawaii on Sunday as molten rock from the Kilauea volcano poured into the ocean, creating yet another hazard from an eruption that began more than two weeks ago.

Authorities warned the public to stay away from the toxic steam cloud, which is formed by a chemical reaction when lava touches seawater.

So-called laze — a term combining the words “lava” and haze” — is a mix of hydrochloric acid fumes, steam and fine volcanic glass specks created when erupting lava, which can reach 1,093 degrees Celsius, reacts with sea water, Hawaii County Civil Defense said in a statement.

The warnings also cautioned that reports of toxic sulfur dioxide gas being vented from various points around the volcano had tripled, urging residents to “take action necessary to limit further exposure.”

Further upslope, lava continued to gush out of large cracks in the ground that formed in residential neighbourhoods in a rural part of Hawaii’s Big Island. The molten rock formed rivers that bisected forests and farms as it meandered toward the coast.

At the volcano’s summit, two explosive eruptions unleashed clouds of ash. Winds carried much of the ash toward the southwest.

Joseph Kekedi, an orchid grower who lives and works about five kilometres from where lava dropped into the sea, said luckily the flow didn’t head toward him. At one point, it was about 1.5 kilometres upslope from his property in the coastal community of Kapoho.

He said residents can’t do much but stay informed and be ready to get out of the way.

“Here’s nature reminding us again who’s boss,” Kekedi said.

Hydrochloric acid
Scientists said the steam clouds at the spots where lava entered the ocean were laced with hydrochloric acid and fine glass particles that can irritate the skin and eyes and cause breathing problems.

The laze from the plume spread as far as 24 kilometres west of where the lava met the ocean on the Big Island’s southern coast. It was just offshore and running parallel to the coast, said U.S. Geological Survey scientist Wendy Stovall.

Scientists said the acid in the plume was about as corrosive as diluted battery acid. The glass was in the form of fine glass shards. Getting hit by it might feel like being sprinkled with glitter.

“If you’re feeling stinging on your skin, go inside,” Stovall said. Authorities warned that the plume could shift direction if the winds changed.

The Coast Guard said it was enforcing a safety zone extending 300 metres around the ocean entry point.

Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. John Bannon said in a statement Sunday that “getting too close to the lava can result in serious injury or death.”

Gov. David Ige told reporters in Hilo that the state was monitoring the volcano and keeping people safe.

“Like typical eruptions and lava flows, it’s really allowing Madame Pele to run its course,” he said, referring to the Hawaiian goddess of volcanoes and fire.

Ige said he was thankful that the current flows weren’t risking homes and hoped it would stay that way.

On Saturday, the eruption claimed its first major injury. David Mace, a spokesperson for the Federal Emergency Management Agency who was helping Hawaii County respond to the disaster, said a man was struck in the leg by a flying piece of lava. He didn’t have further details, including what condition the man was in.

Kilauea has burned some 40 structures, including two dozen homes, since it began erupting in people’s backyards in a neighbourhood on May 3. Some 2,000 people have evacuated their homes, including 300 who were staying in shelters.

In recent days, the lava began to move more quickly and emerge from the ground in greater volume.

Scientists say they don’t know how long the eruption will last.

Hawaii tourism officials have stressed that most of the Big Island remains unaffected by the eruption and is open for business.

Ash Cloud From Hawaii Volcano Sparks Red Alert For Aviation

Explosions intensified on Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano on Tuesday, spewing ash and triggering a red alert for aircraft for the first time since the latest eruption began 12 days ago.

Ash and volcanic smog, or vog, as it is called, rose to 12,000 feet (3,657 meters) above Kilauea’s crater and floated southwest, showering cars on Highway 11 with gray dust and prompting an “unhealthy air” advisory in the community of Pahala, 18 miles (29 km) from the summit.

An aviation red alert means a volcanic eruption is underway that could spew ash along aircraft routes, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) says on its website.

Ash was also a new hazard for residents of Hawaii’s Big Island, already grappling with volcanic gas and lava that has destroyed 37 homes and other structures and forced the evacuation of about 2,000 residents.

A shift in winds was expected to bring ash and vog inland on Wednesday and make them more concentrated, said John Bravender of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

“We’re observing more or less continuous emission of ash now with intermittent, more energetic ash bursts or plumes,” Steve Brantley, a deputy scientist in charge at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO), said on a conference call with reporters.

The observatory warned the eruption could become more violent.

“At any time, activity may become more explosive, increasing the intensity of ash production and producing ballistic projectiles near the vent,” the HVO said in a statement on the change in aviation alert level to red from orange.

Ash is not poisonous but irritates the nose, eyes, and airways. It can make roads slippery and large emissions could cause the failure of electrical power lines, said USGS chemist David Damby.

New fissure
The eruption has hit the island’s tourism industry.

Big Island summer hotel bookings have dropped by almost half from last year, Rob Birch, executive director of the Island of Hawaii Visitor Bureau, told journalists on a conference call.

College exchange student Constantin Plinke, 24, was planning to go to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park before it was shut.

“We had a big list of things to do and maybe 80 percent of them were in the national park,” he said, after stopping by the side of the road to watch ash plumes rising into the air. “It’s sad.”

The area taking the brunt of the eruption is about 25 miles (40 km) down Kilauea’s eastern flank, near the village of Pahoa. Lava has burst from the ground to tear through housing developments and farmland, threatening one of the last exit routes from coastal areas, state Highway 132.

The latest fissure in the earth opened on Tuesday, spewing lava and toxic gases that pushed air quality into “condition red” around Lanipuna Gardens and nearby farms, causing “choking and inability to breathe,” the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory and Hawaii County Civil Defense said.

Road crews put metal plates over steaming cracks on nearby Highway 130 and reopened it to give coastal residents an escape route should a lava flow reach the ocean and block another road, Highway 137, Civil Defense said.

No major injuries or deaths have been reported from the eruption.

A looming menace remains the possibility of an “explosive eruption” of Kilauea, an event last seen in 1924. Pent-up steam could drive a 20,000-foot (6,100-meter) ash plume out of the crater and scatter debris over 12 miles (19 km), the USGS said.

UPDATE : Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano Eruption Destroys 9 Homes

PAHOA, Hawaii — The number of homes destroyed by lava shooting out of openings in the ground created by Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano has climbed to nine. Some of the more than 1,700 people who evacuated prepared for the possibility they may not return for quite some time.

“I have no idea how soon we can get back,” said Todd Corrigan, who left his home in Leilani Estates with his wife on Friday as lava burst through the ground three or four blocks from their home. They spent the night on the beach in their car and began looking for a vacation rental.

Hawaii County civil defense officials said two new fissures opened overnight, bringing the total to nine that opened in the neighborhood since Thursday. U.S. Geological Survey volcanologist Wendy Stovall said that with the two new fissures, the total was 10, though one of the new ones had already stopped producing lava.

Scientists said Kilauea was likely to release more lava through additional vents, but they were unable to predict exactly where. Leilani Estates, a subdivision in the mostly rural district of Puna, is at greatest risk. Authorities ordered more than 1,700 residents to evacuate from there and nearby Lanipuna Gardens.

Talmadge Magno, administrator for Hawaii County Civil Defense, told CBS News correspondent Carter Evans that it’s not known for how long the volcanic activity will continue.

“That’s the sad part about it,” Magno told Evans. “It could be happening for a long time, or on the other hand, like I said, mysteriously it could just end.”

Leilani Estates, a subdivision in the mostly rural district of Puna, is at greatest risk. Authorities ordered more than 1,700 residents to evacuate from there and nearby Lanipuna Gardens.

Hundreds of small earthquakes continued to rumble through the area Saturday, one day after a magnitude-6.9 temblor hit — the largest earthquake to hit Hawaii in more than 40 years. Magma moving through Kilauea set off the earthquakes, said geologists, who warned of aftershocks.

Authorities cautioned sulfuric gas pouring out of the vents also posed dangers, particularly to the elderly and people with respiratory problems. Hawaii County spokeswoman Kanani Aton said some residents may be allowed to return home briefly to pick up medicine or take care of pets if sulfur dioxide levels drop.

Tesha “Mirah” Montoya, 45, said the threat of toxic fumes wasn’t enough to make her family evacuate, but the tipping point was the earthquakes.

“I felt like the whole side of our hill was going to explode,” she said. “The earthquake was what made us start running and start throwing guinea pigs and bunnies in the car.”

Montoya, her husband and daughter don’t know how long they will be away from the three-story octagonal house they built nearly 20 years ago in a patch of “raw jungle.”

“My heart and soul’s there,” she said in a phone interview from a cabin on the north side of the Big Island, where the family had hunkered down. “I’m nothing without the land. It’s part of my being.”

Gary McMillan said his home is about 3,000 feet from one of the fissures in Leilani Estates. He monitored remote cameras set up in his home and said his home was still intact.

He’s living out of his van with his wife at the nearby community center and constantly thinks about things they left behind, but understands why authorities evacuated residents.

“I was a critical care nurse for 37 years, so I understand the health implications and the dangers involved,” McMillan said.

Kilauea has been continuously erupting since 1983 and is one of the world’s most active volcanoes. In 2014, lava burned a house and smothered a cemetery as it approached Pahoa, the town closest to Leilani Estates. But this flow stalled just before it reached Pahoa’s main road.

Nearly 30 years ago, lava slowly covered an entire town, Kalapana, over the period of about a year.

BREAKING NEWS: New Massive 6.9 Earthquake Hits Near Kilauea Volcano

A 6.9 magnitude earthquake has rocked Hawaii near an erupting volcano on Friday, just an hour after a 5.0 -magnitude earthquake also hit nearby. The massive 6.9 quake was centered near the south flank of Kilauea volcano, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center says: “No tsunami is expected, however, this earthquake generated small sea level changes at Hilo (20 cm amplitude), Kapoho (40 cm amplitude), Honuapo (15 cm amplitude)”.

Hawaii County Civil Defense says Friday’s 5.4 earthquake was centered near the south flank of Kilauea volcano. Officials say there’s no tsunami threat to the Big Island.

Both quakes hit about 1.2 miles from Kapaahu and 17.8 miles from Hawaiian Paradise Park – starting at about 2:30 p.m. PST.

The quakes come after a volcanic eruption that began Thursday, which spewed molten lava that chewed through forests and bubbled up on paved streets. One resident described the scene as “a curtain of fire.”

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Breaking News : Kilauea Volcano Erupts in Hawaii, Forcing Evacuations

The eruption of lava from the Kilauea volcano forced residents in two subdivisions on the island of Hawaii to evacuate Thursday.

Lava spewed from a crack in the earth following days of small earthquakes around the volcano. Photos and drone footage showed cracks opening up across green yards and roadways and molten rock bursting out.

The area has experienced hundreds of small earthquakes in recent days. The largest, a magnitude 5.0, hit about 10:30 a.m. Thursday. It was centered on the southeastern coast of the island of Hawaii, with a depth of four miles.

Hawaii County ordered the mandatory evacuation of the Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens subdivisions at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. Officials opened two community centers to shelter people who fled their homes.

No deaths or injuries were reported.

One resident, Ikaika Marzo, told The Honolulu Star-Advertiser that lava fountains were shooting 150 feet into the air about 5:30 p.m. and that lava had spread over a 200-yard-wide area behind a house in Leilani Estates.

Continue reading the main story
“It sounds like a jet engine. It’s going hard,” he told the newspaper.

Leilani Estates had a population of 1,560 in the 2010 census, but residents say the evacuations could affect thousands of people.

“People are scared,” said Matthew Purvis, a pastor who runs a bakery in the town of Pahoa.

“It’s not just evacuating people, it’s their things and their animals and their livelihoods,” he added.

Mr. Purvis drove a van into the threatened subdivisions to help residents flee.

“I don’t think people thought this would actually happen,” he said. “It was just a moment’s notice. It’s pretty wild.”

The Hawaii Volcano Observatory said white vapor and blue fumes began emanating from the cracked areas Thursday afternoon, followed by spatter — blobs of lava blown into the air — just before 5 p.m.

“The opening phases of fissure eruptions are dynamic,” the observatory warned. “Additional vents and new lava outbreaks may occur and at this time it is not possible to say where new vents may occur.”

An eruption from the Puu Oo’ cone of Kilauea in 1983 has continued to flow, destroying houses in the Royal Gardens subdivision. In 1990 more than 100 homes in the Kalapana community were destroyed by lava flow.

An eruption from Kilauea in 2014 flowed down the surface of the volcano and burned a house in Pahoa. Now residents worry that more structures could be threatened in the area, which is one of the fastest-growing in the state.

“Living on a volcano, everybody has got pretty thick skin. They know the risk,” said Ryan Finlay, who lives in Pahoa and runs an online trade school. “Lava for the most part has flown to the ocean the last 30 years. Everybody gets in a comfort zone. The last couple weeks, everything changed.”

Activity on Hawaii Volcano Could Indicate New Eruption

A series of earthquakes and the collapse of the crater floor at the Puu Oo vent on Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano could trigger a new eruption of lava, officials said Tuesday.

Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said that seismic activity over the past 24 hours could lead to a new breakout on the east side of the Big Island volcano.

USGS geologist Janet Babb said similar activity has been recorded prior to previous eruptions in the area. In mid-April the observatory issued a volcano activity alert when scientists noticed the Puu Oo vent was inflating and becoming pressurized.

“We knew that change was afoot and we’ve seen this in the past, and so we have been kind of waiting and watching for whatever change that was going to happen to happen,” Babb said. “It happened yesterday afternoon.”

When the earthquakes and collapse occurred and the pressure within the Puu Oo vent was released, an “intrusion” of lava was sent into a new area of the volcano and spread throughout the night.

“Magma has now migrated into a lower part of the East Rift Zone,” Babb said. “The concern is that the intrusion migrated about 10 miles down rift into the area where Highway 130 is.”

There are homes in that area of the Big Island and Highway 130 leads to a popular access point where people can hike or bike into the lava viewing area.

The Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency sent out an alert Tuesday morning warning residents in the area to monitor the situation and be prepared for the possibility of a new lava flow.

Spokeswoman Kanani Aton said that the agency is “planning ahead for a worst-case scenario” by reviewing emergency plans and monitoring the activity in conjunction with USGS officials.

All public access from the island’s Puna District near Kalapana has been shut down and visitors have been warned to stay away in case of an eruption. Private excursions including boat and hiking tours have also been suspended.

“It’s been closed due to the possibility of an eruption and security has been posted to ensure that no unauthorized persons enter,” Aton said, adding that anywhere from 500 to 2,000 people visit the site each day. “It is important to note that although there is increased seismic activity in the area, the magnitude is not large enough to cause concern for tsunami.”

Babb says the activity has slowed significantly since a spike on Monday afternoon and overnight, but the threat level has not changed. Scientists don’t know if decreased seismic activity is an indication that the event is over or if it’s just stalled and could pick back up.

“That’s the unknown at this point. Therefore we are still watching, we are watching very closely,” Babb said.

Geologists flew over the area and observed a layer of red ash covering the ground near the Puu Oo vent. The ash was spread throughout the area when the crater floor collapsed.

“The good news is that as they flew down the East Rift Zone they didn’t see any ground cracks or steaming that would suggest that the magma was coming near the surface,” Babb said.

Most of Kilauea’s activity has been nonexplosive, but a 1924 eruption spewed ash and 10-ton rocks into the sky, leaving one man dead.

Puu Oo’s 1983 eruption resulted in lava fountains soaring over 1,500 feet high. In the decades since, the lava flow has buried dozens of square miles (kilometers) of land and destroyed many homes.

In 2008, after a series of small earthquakes rattled the island, Kilauea’s summit crater opened and gushed lava and rock over 75 acres of the mountain, damaging a nearby visitor overlook.