18th fissure emitting steam and lava leads to more evacuations on Hawaii’s Big Island

Posted at 3:42 PM, May 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-13 17:42:30-04

By Nicole Chavez and Amir Vera, CNN

Three new fissures have opened on Hawaii’s Big Island, spewing lava and fueling fears of violent explosions more than a week after the Kilauea volcano erupted.

Nearly 2,000 people have been evacuated since the volcano erupted May 3, sending lava flowing into communities and threatening a nearby geothermal plant.

An 18th fissure, a crack on the ground through which lava pours out, was reported Sunday, according to the Civil Defense Emergency System for the County of Hawaii.

The Department of Public Works and Police said the new fissure opened on Hale Kamahina Loop Road and is emitting steam and lava.

The fissure is several hundred yards long and splattering lava tens of feet into the air, according to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

Residents along the road have been ordered to evacuate, officials said.

The 17th fissure was reported Saturday night, the US Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said.

“Lava from this latest outbreak is actively spattering,” it said.

The volcanic vents, or fissures, have released slow-moving lava and toxic gas into island communities, gobbling up dozens of homes and vehicles.

Another fissure, the 16th, was reported earlier Saturday and “produced a lava flow that traveled about 250 yards before stalling,” officials said.

That vent was about a mile east of the Puna Geothermal Venture plant, where officials removed 60,000 gallons of flammable liquids due to safety concerns.

In addition to the new fissures, USGS officials said an explosive eruption is possible at Halemaumau crater at the top of the Kilauea volcano. Such an eruption could generate ash plumes over an area 12 miles from the summit crater, the HOV said.

Trump signs disaster declaration

President Donald Trump declared a major disaster in Hawaii on Friday. The declaration allows federal assistance to supplement state and local recovery efforts in areas affected by the Kilauea volcanic eruption and earthquake.

Federal funding is available to state, eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations on a cost-sharing basis, the White House said.

The estimated cost to protect residents over the next 30 days is expected to exceed $2.9 million, according to the governor’s office.

‘They lost everything with the lava’

Aside from evacuations, the Kilauea volcano has had a devastating effect on some residents.

Larry and Geri Butler retired from Seattle to a home in Hawaii 15 years ago.

The couple was part of the evacuation May 3 and found out May 5, via social media, that their home had been destroyed, their son Christian Butler said.

“They are still pretty shook up, but I think the initial shock is starting to wear off,” Butler said. “They lost everything with the lava, and have to start over from scratch. I’m not sure that fact has really sunk in with them yet.”

Video captured by John Carter and shared on social media shows the Butlers’ home engulfed in flames from the vantage point of the front yard. Another video, filmed in the backyard, shows lava consuming the couple’s backyard.

Butler said the video was shared by people who lived in the area, then his parents found out. His parents called him to tell him the news. Butler lives in the Seattle area.

“I’m not able to be with them during all this,” he said. “That makes this all that much more frustrating for me, so I am trying to do all I can for them from here.”

He calls the home being destroyed a relief, though, because it helps him focus on his parents’ future.