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Volcano and Earthquakes in Hawaii

Pahoa, Hawaii —(Map)

Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano erupted on Thursday. That eruption caused a very strong earthquake on Friday. Huge amounts of melted rock are moving underground. Lava has been shooting out of cracks in the ground in an area where many people live.

Over 1,700 people have had to leave their homes. At least nine homes in the Leilani Estates have been burned by the volcano. City streets have been cracked, with lava shooting out, or slowly covering some roads.

Lava flows over the road in Lailani Estates.
Lava flows over the road in Lailani Estates.
(Source: USGS.)

Kilauea is on the southern side of the island of Hawai’i, Hawaii’s largest island. The volcano has been erupting off and on for about 30 years. When Kilauea erupts, lava doesn’t usually shoot out of a hole in the center. Instead, it leaks out through cracks in the ground on the side of the volcano, called vents or fissures.

Puu Oo - the main crater of Kilauea.
Puu Oo – the main crater of Kilauea.
The line of white steam going down the side is a vent or fissure.
(Source: USGS.)

Kilauea sits over a volcanic hot spot, and there is lots of magma underneath it. Magma is rock that is so hot that it is melted and runny. When it comes out of the ground, we call it lava. The magma flows through holes in the ground. The scientists can’t tell where the magma is flowing underground. This means they can’t tell where the vents will show up, and where the lava will come out.

So far, there have been at least ten different vents where lava, smoke, and dangerous gas have come out. The lava has mainly come out in an area where many people live, called Leilani Estates. Vents have shown up in the middle of roads and in a nearby forest. At times the lava has shot up to 100 feet into the air.

Lava fountains have shot up to 100 feet in the air.
Lava fountains have shot up to 100 feet in the air.
(Source: USGS.)

People were told that the volcano might erupt soon. Last week there were hundreds of small earthquakes, and on Monday the main crater (bowl) of the volcano began to break up. When the crater broke all the way on Thursday, the magma that it let go caused Friday’s huge earthquake. This 6.9-magnitude earthquake   was the biggest earthquake in Hawaii in 43 years. There have been hundreds more smaller earthquakes since the big one on Friday.

1,700 people have had to leave their homes because of the eruption.
1,700 people have had to leave their homes because of the eruption.
(Source: USGS.)

The lava is not the only problem for the people who have had to leave their homes. The vents are also letting off sulfur dioxide gas, which is poisonous. Unlike smoke, the gas can’t be seen, and smells like matches. The gas gives a burning feeling in the eyes, nose, and throat. It is much worse for babies, older people, and people who already have trouble breathing.

During a calm period, some people were allowed to go back to their houses quickly to get important items, such as medicine or pets. But so far no one knows when the people may be able to return to their homes for good.

Pahoa, Hawaii


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