Threat of violent explosion in Hawaii forces authorities to close national park

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Threat of violent explosion in Hawaii forces authorities to close national park

Scientists say the explosive eruption could occur even as the volcano continues to splatter and ooze lava out of its eastern flank into a residential area.

Rachel Smigelski-Theiss is among those who have shifted gears.

The chances of the volcano's explosive summit eruption were high enough to close Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Now they've cancelled their trip. "Why did they let people build all around it?" she asked. "We know it is a distinct possibility".

In April, floods on Kauai Island made travelers nervous.

Therefore, in the coming weeks it will be critical to follow the updates from the USGS and Civil Defense regarding the status of Kilauea, not only at the lava flow field down at Leilani Estates, but also at the summit.

In Pahoa, the nearest village to Kilauea, some schools remained closed after the area was hit last week by a 6.9-magnitude quake, the biggest since 1975.

Since the quake, there have been frequent aftershocks. Adding to the distress, of the 36 structures destroyed, 26 were homes. Depending on wind conditions, dustings of ash may occur in the Kīlauea summit area and downwind.

The U.S. Geological Survey says that a sudden eruption could happen when the lava flows increase from its crater down the face and as magma flows below the water table. After the 1924 eruption, the lava lake disappeared for 85 years, only becoming visible again in 2009.

"What we've already been seeing is that chunks of the surrounding vents are just dropping off into the lava and that's why we're getting these small explosions", said Jessica Johnson, a volcanologist at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom.

The resident and his friend took the suspected intruder to the police checkpoint at the Highway 130 and Leilani Avenue intersection, where police arrested the man without incident. If another blast happens, the danger zone could extend about 3 miles from the summit to land that all falls within the national park, Mandeville said.

But most of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park will be closed Friday until further notice, because officials are anxious one of those steam-driven explosions could happen, accompanied by an ash fall. The lodge, which has 12 rooms and 4 cottages, has had a handful of cancellations.

Geologists also are closely monitoring the Kilauea summit.

Things at Hawaii's erupting Kilauea volcano are kicking up. There's also the night sky visible from the 13,803-foot summit of Mauna Kea, the island's tallest peak and the location of some of the world's most advanced telescopes. Mathew Devlen, an American film maker visiting Hawaii as a tourist, said he was awed by it all.

We have always heard that the Hawaiian volcanoes (which are technically called Shield Volcanoes) are not explosive, unlike the Cascade Volcanoes (called stratovolcanoes), which tend to be volatile.

"Everyone comes here", she said.

For people with asthma and other respiratory problems, "the effects are much more serious, causing a tightening of the airways in the lungs and making it very hard to breathe", the university says.

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