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Residents Evacuated As Lava Spews From Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano


On the Big Island of Hawaii, lava from the Kilauea volcano has forced more than a thousand people to evacuate. The lava burst through the ground last night near residential areas after hundreds of earthquakes in recent days. We've got Derrick Malama on the line. He's a local MORNING EDITION host at Hawaii Public Radio.

Derrick, thanks for being with us.

DERRICK MALAMA, BYLINE: Oh, you're welcome, Rachel.

MARTIN: What does this look like, this eruption and all the lava?

MALAMA: It doesn't look like past eruptions that I've seen. I saw a drone video last night. And in the past here in Hawaii, the lava would move slower and you could predict its movement. But this one just sort of popped up out of the crack in the ground, the fissure. And you could see the red and orange lava shooting up into the air. And one resident said it was over 100 feet, you know, the lava fountains.

MARTIN: I mean, that's crazy.

MALAMA: It was through a forest. It was about 500 feet long, this crack in the ground. And it was amazing to see. But the residents there had to evacuate. Hawaii County Civil Defense ordered all residents in that area - it was called the Leilani Estates and nearby Lanipuna Gardens - to evacuate. There are about 1,700 residents in the area. And community centers in the towns of Pahoa and Keaau are open for those residents.

MARTIN: So they've got evacuation shelters. Temporary buildings have been set up to house them.


MARTIN: Can you talk about what led up to this? I mean, were people prepared? Were officials prepared for this to happen?

MALAMA: All the signs of the eruption were there. There were hundreds of small quakes since last week, but no one knew exactly when this would happen. Even as just, like, yesterday, there was a 5.0-magnitude earthquake yesterday morning. But still, no one knew exactly - that isn't really a predictor because it - 4:30 in the afternoon is when the eruption occurred. And so it took a lot of people by surprise, a lot of the residents there.

MARTIN: So all the people who've been evacuated, I mean, do we know their status? Are they getting the resources they need? Any idea when they could go home?

MALAMA: Not yet. There aren't - the good news is there aren't any reports of any injuries, no damage estimates yet. But there is a danger from sulfur dioxide gases in the area from the volcano eruption. That's been detected. So people with respiratory problems should be avoiding that area right now.

MARTIN: Derrick Malama of Hawaii Public Radio for us this morning.

Thank you so much.

MALAMA: Oh, you're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF SANNHET'S "SECONDARY ARROWS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Derrick Malama