A map of the evacuation zones

The red line shows the mandatory evacuation zones. The red arrows show active fissures.

Since the volcanic activity began on May 3, the residents of the lower Pahoa area have been the worst hit, with the neighbourhoods of Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens, with a population of 2,000, now fully evacuated. 

Today, as the activity turned explosive, shooting a massive oppressive plume of ash into the air, massive swathes of the island were engulfed, and residents were told to take emergency shelter. 

The wind could carry the ash plume as far as Hilo, Big Island’s largest city and major tourism centre, the Hawaiian Civil Defence warned in an alert.

USGS geologists and staff, who have been working tirelessly to try and predict what the volcano has in store next, were evacuated from the summit shortly before the blast.

An aviation red alert was issued due to risks that ash could be carried into aircraft routes and damage jet engines.

Big Ihe island is also on high alert for volcanic smog, or vog – a potentially deadly sulphurous dioxide gas emission from the active volcano. 

An “unhealthy air” advisory has been issued for the community of Pahala, as far as 18 miles from the summit. 

National Guard troops donned gas masks to protect themselves from toxic sulphur dioxide gas as they manned the only surviving road in and out f the coastal areas which have been evacuated. 

Schools were closed in the area due to the high levels of sulphur dioxide 

Thermal map showing lava spread

This thermal map shows lava spread over the lower Pahoa area

Map showing projected ash fall

This map shows the USGS predicted ash fall area

Geologists had warned explosive eruptions could be imminent once Kilauea’s falling lava lake descended below the water table, creating steam-driven blasts.

The ash itself is not poisonous, but can cause irritation to airways, particularly for those with pre-existing conditions, and can cause “choking and inability to breath” according to the HVO. 

The last time Kilauea saw a period of explosive activity was May 1924 – 94 years ago this month. 

There were 50 explosive activities recorded in a two and a half week period and ballistic blocks weighing up to 14 tons were thrown from the crater. 

There is no way to say how long this current period of explosive activity will continue, but when the Iceland volcano erupted in 2010, disruption due to the ash cloud lasted for more than a month sparking travel chaos. 

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