Hawaii goes on RED ALERT for ‘major eruption’ of Kilauea volcano as huge ash plume billows 12,000 FEET into the sky with the USGS warning of an ‘explosive and imminent’ event sparking preparations for mass evacuations

Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano could have a major devastating eruption at ‘any time’, the US Geographical Survey has said.

The volcano has been erupting for 10 days, and more than 2000 residents have already been evacuated.


‘At any time, activity may become more explosive, increasing the intensity of ash production and producing ballistic projectiles near the vent,’ the USGS said on Tuesday afternoon.

The USGS also raised the volcano aviation alert level at Hawaii’s Kilauea to red – the highest level – which indicates a ‘major volcanic eruption is imminent, underway, or suspected with hazardous activity both on the ground and in the air.’

A recent lowering of the lava lake at the volcano’s Halemaumau crater ‘has raised the potential for explosive eruptions’ at the volcano, the organisation said.

Plumes of smoke are reaching up to 12,000 feet into the sky and ash is raining on to nearby towns. On Wednesday, The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory recorded a lava temperature of 217 degrees Fahrenheit.

Some of the vents in the volcano are now reportedly releasing such high levels of sulfur dioxide that it’s posing a grave danger to anyone nearby.

People watch at a golf course as an ash plume rises in the distance from the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island as the USGS announces a major, explosive eruption is imminent

People watch at a golf course as an ash plume rises in the distance from the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island as the USGS announces a major, explosive eruption is imminent

Smoke plumes from the mountain have reached up to 12,000 feet, the USGS announced on Tuesday, and ash is raining into nearby towns

Smoke plumes from the mountain have reached up to 12,000 feet, the USGS announced on Tuesday, and ash is raining into nearby towns

 Some of the vents in the volcano are now reportedly releasing such high levels of sulfur dioxide that it's posing a grave danger to anyone nearby

 Some of the vents in the volcano are now reportedly releasing such high levels of sulfur dioxide that it’s posing a grave danger to anyone nearby

A recent lowering of the lava lake at the volcano's Halemaumau crater 'has raised the potential for explosive eruptions' at the volcano 

A recent lowering of the lava lake at the volcano’s Halemaumau crater ‘has raised the potential for explosive eruptions’ at the volcano

Three new fissures (one of which is pictured above) have opened up on Hawaii's Big Island since Monday, raising the possibility that officials might have to order further mass evacuations

Three new fissures (one of which is pictured above) have opened up on Hawaii’s Big Island since Monday, raising the possibility that officials might have to order further mass evacuations

Residents of Hawaii's Big Island are getting prepared to evacuate should Kilauea boil over as predicted

Residents of Hawaii’s Big Island are getting prepared to evacuate should Kilauea boil over as predicted

A spokesman from the National Guard told AP on Tuesday morning nearly 20 fissures had opened on the volcano and lava was spewing towards a major highway.

‘[The lava is] two miles from Highway 137 and it’s travelling at 100 yards per hour in a narrow flow,’ he said.

Fountains of magma spouted ‘lava bombs’ more than 100 feet into the air as the molten rock traveled east-southeast towards the coastal road, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said.

Earlier, the USGS expressed concern pent-up steam could cause a violent explosive eruption at the volcano crater, launching a 20,000-foot plume that could spread debris over 12 miles.

Scientists had expected such explosions by the middle of this month as Kilauea’s lava lake fell below the water table. The possibility exists, however, that water may not be entering the crater, as feared, and gas and steam may be safely venting, scientists said.

‘So far those explosions have not occurred and I think the key here is that the vent system is an open one, therefore pressure is not being built or developed down at the top of the lava column,’ Brantley told a conference call.

Despite the imminent danger, with explosions expected at any time, some people were determined to go on as usual

Despite the imminent danger, with explosions expected at any time, some people were determined to go on as usual

Pictured: An ash plume rising from the Overlook crater. Ash falling from the plume can be seen just to the right side

Pictured: An ash plume rising from the Overlook crater. Ash falling from the plume can be seen just to the right side

Lava is seen seeping out of Fissure 14 on Tuesday morning. Pulsing, gas-rushing sounds could be heard coming from the crack

Lava is seen seeping out of Fissure 14 on Tuesday morning. Pulsing, gas-rushing sounds could be heard coming from the crack

Grey ash can be seen blanketing the Kau Desert landscape (pictured) as the Kilauea volcano continues to erupt

Grey ash can be seen blanketing the Kau Desert landscape (pictured) as the Kilauea volcano continues to erupt

Others were seen gathering to look at the massive smoke plumes rising to the sky (pictured is a woman with her dog, Tzippy)

Others were seen gathering to look at the massive smoke plumes rising to the sky (pictured is a woman with her dog, Tzippy)

The USGS has expressed concern pent-up steam could cause a violent explosive eruption at the volcano crater, launching a 20,000-foot plume that could spread debris over 12 miles

The USGS has expressed concern pent-up steam could cause a violent explosive eruption at the volcano crater, launching a 20,000-foot plume that could spread debris over 12 miles

Residents of Leilani Estates, the neighborhood on Hawaii’s Big Island, were evacuated last month given its proximity to the epicenter of the volcano.

Remaining locals put out bottles of alcohol on Tuesday as offerings to the Pele, the Hawaiian Goddess of Fire.

Lava from a huge new fissure has already torn through farmland towards a coastal dirt road that is one of the last exit routes for some 2,000 residents in the southeast area of the Big Island.

More lava-belching cracks are expected to open among homes and countryside some 25 miles east of Kilauea’s smoking summit, possibly blocking one of the last exit routes, Highway 132.

Mass evacuations would be triggered if Highway 132 or 137 is hit by lava, according to Hawaii National Guard spokesman Jeff Hickman.

Residents Cherie Daniel (left) and Lisa Magno (right) are seen taking a selfie as ash pours out of the Halemaumau crater near their homes

Residents Cherie Daniel (left) and Lisa Magno (right) are seen taking a selfie as ash pours out of the Halemaumau crater near their homes

Before and after satellite images have captured the devastation caused by Hawaii’s erupting Kilauea volcano. Above is an area near Pahoa where home have been destroyed. The left picture was taken on May 24, 2017, while the right image was captured on Monday

The images show just how destructive the lava flow has been on Leilani Estates, which is near the epicenter of the volcano

The satellite imagery compares the area from May 24 last year to how it appeared on Monday

Residents put out bottles of alcohol on Tuesday as offerings to the Pele, the Hawaiian Goddess of Fire

Residents put out bottles of alcohol on Tuesday as offerings to the Pele, the Hawaiian Goddess of Fire

It comes as webcams placed near the edge of the Kilauea volcano, which have been refreshing every few minutes, showed gases and scorching lava spluttering out as fissures continue to form after more than a week of continuous eruptions.

The American Red Cross said 500 people sought refuge in its shelters on Sunday night because of worsening volcanic activity.

Two more fissures opened in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 19.

‘It’s optimistic to think that this is the last fissure we’re going to see,’ said Hawaiian Volcano Observatory Deputy Scientist-In-Charge Steve Brantley. He said a similar seismic event in 1955 lasted 88 days.

Webcams placed near the edge of Hawaii's erupting Kilauea volcano have been refreshing every few minutes to capture the gases and lava flow

Webcams placed near the edge of Hawaii’s erupting Kilauea volcano have been refreshing every few minutes to capture the gases and lava flow

The images from the various webcams set up by the United States Geological Survey show the summit and east rift zones of the Kilauea volcano

The images from the various webcams set up by the United States Geological Survey show the summit and east rift zones of the Kilauea volcano

This image is from a temporary research camera positioned on the north rim looking into the crater

This image is from a temporary research camera positioned on the north rim looking into the crater

This image was captured from Halemaʻumaʻu Overlook and shows the thermal imaging of the volcano 

This image was captured from Halemaʻumaʻu Overlook and shows the thermal imaging of the volcano

Unnerved by near-constant small earthquakes and emissions of toxic sulfur dioxide gas, Rob Guzman and his husband Bob Kirk left their home in Kalapana Seaview Estates while they still could.

‘We just need the local government to calm down the panic that some of these 2,000 people are feeling, that today, we’re going to be trapped with no way out,’ said Guzman, who left behind a banana farm and rental properties to go stay with friends.

The Hawaii Fire Department issued a ‘condition red’ alert on Monday because fissures in the southeast area of the Lanipuna Gardens area were issuing high levels of sulfur dioxide.

‘Condition RED means immediate danger to health so take action to limit further exposure. Severe conditions may exist such as choking and inability to breathe,’ the department said in the alert.

This image is from a research camera positioned on the northwest flank showing the active flow field

This image is from a research camera positioned on the northwest flank showing the active flow field

Jolon Clinton, 15, and her sister, Halcy, 17, take photos of a fissure near their home on the outskirts of Pahoa during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano

Jolon Clinton, 15, and her sister, Halcy, 17, take photos of a fissure near their home on the outskirts of Pahoa during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano

Two more fissures opened up on Monday and another fissure opened up on Tuesday morning

Two more fissures opened up on Monday and another fissure opened up on Tuesday morning

More lava-belching cracks are expected to open among homes and countryside some 25 miles east of Kilauea's smoking summit

More lava-belching cracks are expected to open among homes and countryside some 25 miles east of Kilauea’s smoking summit

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