Hawaii on Red Alert; Major Volcano Eruption May Be Imminent

The Latest Large rocks spew out of Hawaii volcano summit

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

Such activity increases the potential for groundwater to pour into the system, which could generate more big explosions, Anderson says.

A red alert, according to the agency, means a "major volcanic eruption is imminent, underway or suspected, with hazardous activity both on the ground and in the air".

The eruption started on May 3 and around 20 fissures have opened up since then, with the lava destroying dozens of homes.

Smog from Hawaii's Kilauea volcano drifted north up the island chain on Wednesday and communities south of its summit were warned of up to a quarter-inch (0.6 cm) of ashfall as the almost two-week eruption showed no sign of easing.

Plume activity at the summit might not be as robust on Wednesday, Poland said. The new fissure emitting steam and lava spatter spurred Hawaii officials to call for more evacuations on Sunday.

Ash is not poisonous but irritates the nose, eyes and airways.

Cancellations from May through July have hit at least $5 million, said Ross Birch, executive director of the island's tourism board. Big Island summer hotel bookings have dropped by nearly half from previous year, Rob Birch, executive director of the Island of Hawaii Visitor Bureau, told journalists on a conference call.

As a result, officials announced most of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park would be closed indefinitely to keep visitors and park employees at a safe distance from a possible eruption. The gas may cause choking and make people unable to breathe, the county said as it warned people in the area to leave.

Residents around PGV's Pohoiki power plant have anxious that earthquakes or a lava flow could cause an uncontrolled blowout that would spew toxic gases into their communities.

No serious injuries or deaths have been reported from the eruption. A looming menace remains the possibility of an "explosive eruption" of Kilauea, an event last seen in 1924.

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