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Hawaii volcano summit erupts, residents urged to take shelter

Senate aims to improve volcano warning system

Bill Dorman of Hawaii Public Radio reports that some residents awoke to a blanket of ash that when combined with rain, "can produce a sort of gritty clay - complicating everything from driving to local water catchment systems".

An ash cloud rose up to 30,000 feet above sea level.

"The magma is something like 300 or 400 meters below the surface, and when that happens, ground water can get that close to the volcano where the magma is and it can heat up steam... and issue out of the ground explosively", Ken Rubin, who heads the department of geology and geophysics at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, told AFP. The ship sails weekly round-trips from Honolulu (Oahu) to Kahului (Maui), Hilo and Kona (Hawaii) and Nawiliwili (Kauai).

A USGS update on Wednesday describes "dense ballistic blocks" and warns, "Additional such explosions are expected and could be more powerful".

'The beauty of [the Hawaiian Islands],' Stuart added, 'is that there's a range of diverse destinations for us to be able to change around and adjust the itinerary'. "I think the worst case is about 1,000", he said, but "some may elect to stay there because they are so self-sufficient". New radar measurements estimate the volcanic ash plume to reach 30,000 feet.

USGS says since the 1980s, "eruptive activity has been continuous along the East Rift Zone" and the volcano ranks among the world's most active. Authorities have confirmed the fissure is the 16th to open.

"I got the call to come out Monday morning", said Dennis Hoyt, who lives in Walsenbur.

Volcanic smog - known as "vog" - is now being emitted by the fissures, traveling toward populated areas and threatening residents with risky sulfur dioxide.

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Scientists warned on May 9 that a drop in the lava lake at the summit might create conditions for an explosion that could fling ash and refrigerator-sized boulders into the air.

Lava from the Kilauea Volcano flows across a street on Hawaii's "Big Island".

So far, about 40 homes and other buildings have been destroyed by the red-hot lava that has been flowing from the volcano since early this month. "An eruption in 1924 killed one person and sent rocks, ash and dust into the air for 17 days".

Kilauea's eruption was also seen from the global space station. In the 1960s, an eruption at Kilauea stopped for a year and a half before the volcano suddenly resumed spewing ash. 37 houses have been burned by lava coming out of volcanic fissures.

Kevin Kushel, a resident of the island, told AFP that Thursday's plume of smoke could be seen miles away.

Hawaii's Civil Defence Agency warned the ash plume would likely "cover the surrounding area" and advised the island's residents to "shelter in place".

"These can be quite impressive, and you certainly don't want to be in the vicinity of these explosions, but they don't have the force to sustain huge eruptions".

Despite the volcanic activity, Hoyt said most people on the island are going about their day as normal.

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