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Emergency declared in Hawaii after volcano erupts

IANS | Honolulu |

The Kilauea volcano, one of the world’s most active, has erupted near a residential area on Hawaii’s largest island, prompting a local state of emergency and an evacuation of 1,700 residents.

The eruption on Wednesday affected Leilani Estates and the Hawaii County Civil Defence asked its residents as well as those residing in Lanipuna Gardens to evacuate to a local community centre, the US media reported.

One resident said lava had burst across a road like a curtain of fire and he could smell sulphur and burning trees. Hawaii’s Governor David Ige says he activated military reservists from the National Guard to help evacuate thousands of people.

“I urge residents in Leilani Estates and the surrounding areas to follow instructions. … Please be alert and prepare now to keep your family safe,” he tweeted.

About 1,700 people in the Leilani Estates area were under the evacuation order, CNN quoted the Governor’s spokeswoman, Cindy McMillan, as saying.

The eruption followed a series of strong earthquakes over the past few days. The US Geological Survey said the magnitude of the most severe quake was 5.

It hit Thursday morning and, within half-an-hour, two more quakes rattled the area, registering at 2.5 and 2.7. There had been a total of six smaller earthquakes since the biggest one, the agency said.

Since Monday, hundreds of earthquakes — most of them around 2 magnitude — were recorded in the area. The series of earthquakes came after a collapse of a crater vent Puu Oo in the eastern rift zone of the Kilauea Volcano, sending lava down the mountain’s slopes towards populated areas.