Kilauea volcano erupts, Hawaii hands out 18000 ash masks

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But phreatic eruptions can still pose a deadly threat to anyone near the eruptive vent - and they are extremely hard to forecast, Poland said.

Kilauea volcano has been erupting continuously since 1983.

But they say they expect no loss of life given that the most exposed residential areas have been evacuated and the region where the volcano is located - on the southeastern part of the island - is not densely populated.

Their concern was that the sinking molten rock would create steam as it interacted with the water table and that the steam would then jet upward, hurling heavy rocks and ash into the sky in a phenomenon known as a phreatic eruption. Mr Poland said the explosion probably only lasted a few minutes.

But clearly, not everyone was so anxious.

Nearby residents have been asked to shelter in place if they're in the path of the ash plume. "It's a trickle-down effect that affects everybody", she said.

"Just a little while ago we had something that sounded like thunder", Hoyt said.

The noxious gas, normally emitted at unsafe levels only from the volcano's Halemaumau Crater, was seeping at a greater rate from the fissures in Leilani Estates, a residential area of about four square miles in the Big Island's Puna district.

Kilauea eruption
GETTTYThe explosive eruption sent ash spewing 30,000 feet into the air

Kilauea has erupted in this manner before, in the May of 1924, the Hawaii Volcano Observatory reported more than 50 explosive events more than the course of two-and-a-half weeks at the volcano's summit.

Magno said 18,000 masks that protect from particulates like ash were given out Thursday.

A new fissure cracked open Thursday on the Island of Hawai'i and others "reactivated" with new flows of oozing black lava, as noxious gas and ash became biggest immediate problem for residents around the Kilauea volcano.

The powerful, steam-driven blast was expected to spew large amounts of volcanic ash and smoke from Kilauea's crater on Hawaii's Big Island.

Scientists are warning this could be the first in a string of more violent explosive eruptions, with the next possibly occurring within hours.

The Arizona guard members helped Hawaii residents who lost their homes because of the fissures and lava covering and destroying their neighborhoods.

Hawai'i's Kilauea volcano has spewed ash almost 9 kilometres into the air and scientists have warned this could be the first of a violent string of explosions in the crater.

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