Hawaii eruption: ‘Not the time for sightseeing’ in lava-hit neighborhood

HAWAII — Hawaiian authorities are urging sightseers to stay away as Leilani Estates residents return to check on their neighborhood, which is threatened by lava and toxic gases emerging from fissures in the subdivision.

Big Island’s Kilauea volcano erupted Thursday, spewing molten rock and high levels of sulfur dioxide.

Cracks emerged in the volcano’s East Rift Zone — an area of fissures miles away from the volcano’s summit. All residents of Leilani Estates, a community of about 1,700 people near Big Island’s eastern edge, and nearby Lanipuna Gardens were ordered to evacuate.

The eruption was followed by a 6.9-magnitude earthquake Friday.

As of Sunday, 10 fissures had opened and 26 homes had been destroyed. The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said that active venting of lava and hazardous fumes continued.

The Kilauea volcano has been erupting almost continuously since 1983, according to the US Geological Survey. Activity along the East Rift Zone has shifted down and then back up the rift, said CNN meteorologist Michael Guy. Each one of the episodes that has occurred in this 35-year period has lasted months to years, so there’s no definitive way to predict how the volcanic activity will last, Guy said.