Photo: Jeremiah Osuna
Hawaii’s Big Island remains in a state of high alert and tension after days of earthquakes with a major 6.9 shaking the island today, and the eruption of Kilauea forcing out molten lava, opening vents through the earth’s surface onto residential areas and roads.
Hawaii emergency officials have ordered the evacuation of all residents in the Leilani Estates and Laipuna Garden Subdivisions. Police, Fire and County agencies and National Guard are assisting residents with evacuation and securing neighbourhoods.
Strongest Earthquake since 1970s
Local media are reporting that the 6.9 magnitude earthquake was the strongest in 43 years on the Big Island, knocking out power to 14,00o customers.
The quake was reportedly felt in parts of Oahu. A magnitude 5.6 earthquake also hit the island an hour before the 6.9. No destructive tsunami was generated from either earthquake.
Hawaii local officials say the area continues to be unstable with multiple volcanic eruptions happening. There are now active volcanic vents on Makamae, Kaupili and Mohala Streets. New vents have opened near Pohoiki and Kahukai Roads.
Emergency water restrictions are in place to restrict its use to health and safety needs only.
Dangerous Levels of Sulfur Dioxide
The Hawaii Fire Department are advising that there are high levels of sulfur dioxide gas in the evacuation area causing “extremely dangerous air quality conditions…elderly, young and people with compromised respiratory systems are especially vulnerable.” It can cause serious eye, nose, and skin irritations, shortness of breath, coughing, or other health effects. They say the “high levels detected are an immediate threat to life for all who become exposed”. And that for any residents who refuse to evacuate, first responders may not be able to come to their aid.
A community meeting was held earlier tonight at Pahoa High School cafeteria, opening with prayer. A pet friendly shelter has been set up at the Pahoa and Kea’au community centres.
Evacuated residents have been advised to take with them emergency evacuation supply kit including their medicine, food and any necessary items for their comfort, if possible.Hawaii’s Civil Defence and county, state and federal partners continue to monitor the situation.
Check Official and Military Identification
Hawaii Emergency Management Agency are advising caution before allowing anyone into evacuated homes.
The agency’s media release explains: “Because there have been reports during previous events of civilians wearing camouflage and impersonating military members to gain access to evacuated homes, the Hawaii National Guard is reminding the public that Soldiers and Airmen will be in military vehicles and carrying their military IDs. If there is a question at any time whether or not a person is with the Hawaii National Guard, look for their vehicle and ask to see their military ID.”
A 22-person Hawaii National Guard Unit specialising in chemical, biological response and detection is assisting Hawaii’s Civil Defence in response to the sulfur dioxide levels in the air.
When was the last time something like this happened?
According to the proclamation on the State of Emergency declared by Hawaii’s Governor David Ige, the current lava flow is similar to the “1960 Kapoho eruption, which caused significant damage to public and private property in the lower Puna region.”