Hawaii asks Trump to declare state of disaster for volcano eruption

12 May, 2018, 23:12 | Author: Orlando Hughes
  • Villagers look on as Mount Sinabung volcano spews thick volcanic ash in Karo Indonesia on Friday May 19

Experts fear Kilauea volcano on Hawaii island could send ash and boulders the size of refrigerators miles into the air.

Rachel Smigelski-Theiss is among those who have changed their plans.

Fifteen large cracks or fissures have opened on the eastern flank of Kilauea since the volcano erupted eight days ago. Now they've cancelled their trip.

Janet Coney, office manager of the Kilauea Lodge, an inn and restaurant, said officials told her lodge employees probably won't have to worry about rocks raining down on them but might experience falling ash.

"My equivalent of this - and I'm from South Florida where we have hurricanes - is driving quite literally into a hurricane", she said.

Hawaii officials have been busy all month urging travelers to keep their plans, even as dramatic images of natural disasters afflicting the islands have been playing non-stop on televisions and social media feeds.

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. They evacuated their home on May 3, and only found out it was destroyed when a relative went back to get her personal belongings.

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While locals contend with lava and gas on the ground, explosions at Kilauea's summit, about 40km to the west are dusting downwind communities with ash that is an irritant to eyes and breathing. This means they have a large population nearby, a lot of air traffic, and a lot of infrastructure nearby. The resident and a friend took the suspect to police officers, who arrested him. "This is three football fields going down", Mandeville said.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which includes the crater and surrounding region, announced Wednesday that it will close Friday in anticipation of the possible explosive event.

People should also be cautious around the water: once lava interacts with saltwater, it produces hydrochloric acid, which is toxic.

Neal said fresher, hotter lava could emerge because magma has been moving down Kilauea's rift zone toward the area where the volcano is erupting. The volcanic vents have oozed relatively cool, sluggish magma left over, according to scientists, from a similar event in 1955. There's also the night sky visible from the 13,803-foot (4207-meter) summit of Mauna Kea, the island's tallest peak and the location of some of the world's most advanced telescopes.

Ross Birch, the executive director of the Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau, said he knows that officials "walk the fine line". "We know it is a distinct possibility". "And we don't want to seem callous and inconsiderate in our messaging and our promotion of the island", he said.

Yesterday, US President Donald Trump declared the massive eruption a major disaster, to ensure federal funding will be available to help the recovery effort.

The move will make federal financial assistance available to state and local governments as they fix roads, public parks, schools and water pipes damaged by the eruption.

It will also cover costs for geologists and security personnel at roadblocks.

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