HAWAII VOLCANO ERUPTION SENDS LAVA INTO RESIDENTIAL AREA, PROMPTING EVACUATIONS

Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano erupted Thursday releasing red lava into a residential neighborhood and prompting mandatory evacuation orders for thousands of people in nearby homes.

Hawaiian County Civil Defense said steam and lava poured out of a crack in Leilani Estates, which is near the town of Pahoa on the eastern side of the Big Island.

Residents in the Puna community of about 10,000 were told to evacuate, Hawaii News Now reported. Officials are going door-to-door urging residents to flee.

"People need to remain vigilant and prepared and informed, and think about their family and business and response plans," said Tina Neal, scientist-in-charge with the USGS Hawaiian Volcanoes Observatory.

A “plume of ash” has been reported in the vicinity of Pahoa.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center reported a 4.6 magnitude earthquake earlier Thursday morning off the south flank of the volcano. The USGS reported that there were nearly 70 earthquakes of magnitude 2.5 or stronger from Tuesday to Wednesday. 

Earlier in the week, the Pu’u O’o crater floor on Kilauea volcano’s East Rift Zone collapsed, triggering increased earthquake activity and lava flow. Magma pushed more than 10 miles downslope toward the populated southeast coastline of the island.

"Last night, we started having them ... about five a minute. It was like that just about all night long," Chris Burmeister, who lives in Leilani Estates, told News Now. "It'll rumble for a little bit. Rumble for a little bit. And then every now and then, you'll get just a heavy jolt."

In Leilani Estates, residents reported several large cracks on the road measuring 18 inches long and 2 inches wide, Hawaii News Now reported. But firefighters and USGS scientist told the channel that that cracks were not an immediate threat.

A nearby community center has opened for shelter.