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Trump declares Hawaii a disaster zone amid volcano eruption

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President Donald Trump has declared Hawaii with volcanic eruptions since last week a disaster zone, as the Big Island braces for more volcanic eruption damage, reported UPI (US).

The major disaster declaration clears the way for federal funding assistance after a series of earthquakes have shook the Big Island since May 3, sparking multiple eruptions of lava and volcanic ash.

After the Kilauea volcano erupted, the lava burned 37 structures including 27 homes, and forced 1,700 evacuations.

The Hawaii Volcano Observatory reported "no significant lava flow" from a new fissure Saturday morning, but said that "conditions could change quickly." Further, "elevated earthquake activity and ground deformation continue and additional outbreaks in the area remain likely," the report said.

Hawaiian Gov. David Ige thanked the president for disaster relief in light of the ongoing seismic activity.

"This opens the door to federal assistance and demonstrates a solid partnership with the federal government as we work to keep Hawaii residents safe and support recovery efforts on Hawaii Island," Ige said in a written statement released to the Hawaii Tribune-Herald.

In his request for disaster relief, Ige explained the need for "more than $400,000 in emergency protective measures for the lava flow and earthquakes in the Kilauea East Rift Zone." Ige added that the "estimated cost to protect residents over the next 30 days is expected to exceed $2.9 million."


A new fissure roaring like jet engines and spewing magma opened on Hawaii's Kilauea volcano on Saturday (May 12), piling lava as high as a four-storey building, as the area torn by the US volcano's eruption spread, reported The Straits Times (Singapore).

The crack in pasture land on Kilauea's east flank was the 16th recorded since the volcano, one of the world's most active, erupted eight days ago. Thousands of people have fled their homes on Hawaii's Big Island because of lava and toxic gases, and dozens of homes have been destroyed.

The new fissure opened up about 1.6km east of the existing vent system that has devastated the island's Leilani Estates neighbourhood, with a few homes on the edge of the field where the vent opened.

The US Geological Survey warned that more outbreaks remained likely.

"It's right by my house, which is kind of scary," said Ms Haley Clinton, 17, who walked to see the new crack with her father, Darryl, and sister Jolon, 15. "It's really cool."

From afar, the fissure gave off dull, thumping roars that sharpened on approach to a scream like a chorus of jet engines from venting steam and gas, mixed with the slapping sounds of liquid lava.

Within hours of opening, the fissure had piled reddish-black lava about 12 metres high and at least 45 metres in length. Chunks of magma were being spewed 30 metres in the air.

The intense heat left onlookers drenched with sweat, and the air was filled with an acrid, burned scent.

With billowing gas and smoke blowing in the opposite direction, there was no pungent smell of toxic sulphur dioxide in the air.

Shortly after the fissure opened, the Geological Survey's Hawaii Volcano Observatory said seismic activity remained "elevated" at Kilauea's 1,200-metre-high summit.

The USGS reported that a shallow but small earthquake with a magnitude of 3.5 hit the island on Saturday.

Geologists warned on Friday that a steam-driven eruption from the summit's Halemaumau crater could spew ash plumes 6,100 metres high and spread ash and debris up to 19km.

Kilauea's vents have been oozing relatively cool, sluggish magma left over from a similar event in 1955. Fresher magma could now emerge behind it and the volcano is threatening to start a series of explosive eruptions, scientists have said.

As the area affected by Kilauea's eruption widens, Hawaii residents are racing to buy respirators to cope with the ash and toxic gases spewing from the volcano.

Mr David Baxter, 54, an employee of Pahoa Auto Parts, said the shop was selling out of respirators as soon as they get in and had sold about 3,000 so far. The shop was all out on Saturday.

"We pretty much bought up every (respirator) in the state, and we are selling them at cost - actually, a slight loss," said Mr Baxter. "We need to breathe."

Even as the volcano continued to erupt, the Hawaii Academy of Arts and Sciences, a charter middle and high school in Pahoa, was set to resume classes on Monday after being shut for a week.

A teacher at the school, Ms Tiffany Edwards Hunts, who lives in the Big Island's Vacationland neighbourhood, said she, her husband and two children - ages 10 and 6 - were readying to evacuate their home.

"My husband has been doing a good job of protecting them, but it is scary for kids," she said.

Some pets have been left behind as many residents have fled their homes, and the Hawaii Island Humane Society said it had rescued 16 dogs, three rabbits, four tortoises and four cats from the volcano zone.

Almost all had been picked up by their owners, and 1,400 livestock and 32 horses had also been taken from the volcano zone, it said in a statement.


Multiple fissures emitting minor lava spatter opened Saturday on Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano, heightening fears of an impending major eruption and prompting a warning by the US Geological Survey of more disaster to come, reported Fox News (US).

The eruption of a Hawaii volcano in the Pacific "Ring of Fire" also has experts warily eyeing volcanic peaks on America's West Coast that are also part of the geologically active region.

The West Coast is home to an 800-mile chain of 13 volcanoes, from Washington state's Mount Baker to California's Lassen Peak. They include Mount St. Helens, whose spectacular 1980 eruption in the Pacific Northwest killed dozens of people and sent volcanic ash across the country, and massive Mount Rainier, which towers above the Seattle metro area.

"There's lots of anxiety out there," said Liz Westby, geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey Cascades Volcano Observatory in Vancouver, Wash. "They see destruction, and people get nervous."

Kilauea, on Hawaii's Big Island, is threatening to blow its top in coming days or weeks after sputtering lava for a week, forcing about 2,000 people to evacuate, destroying two-dozen homes and threatening a geothermal plant. Experts fear the volcano could hurl ash and boulders the size of refrigerators miles into the air.

Horseshoe-shaped belt
Roughly 450 volcanoes make up this horseshoe-shaped belt with Kilauea situated in the middle. The belt follows the coasts of South America, North America, eastern Asia, Australia and New Zealand. It's known for frequent volcanic and seismic activity caused by the colliding of crustal plates.

America's most dangerous volcanoes are all part of the Ring of Fire, and most are on the West Coast, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Besides Kilauea, they include: Mount St. Helens and Mount Rainier in Washington; Mount Hood and South Sister in Oregon; and Mount Shasta and Lassen Volcanic Center in California.

Images of lava flowing from the ground and homes going up in flames in Hawaii have stoked unease among residents elsewhere along the Ring of Fire. But experts say an eruption on one section of the arc doesn't necessarily signal danger in other parts.

'Normal' ... for now
The Cascades Volcano Observatory monitors volcanoes in the Pacific Northwest and posts weekly status reports. All currently register "normal."

"All our mountains are considered active and, geologically speaking, things seem to happen in the Northwest about every 100 years," said John Ufford, preparedness manager for the Washington Emergency Management Division.

The Big Island scenes of rivers of lava snaking through neighborhoods and sprouting fountains are unlikely in the Pacific Northwest.

"Lava is not the hazard, per se, like in Hawaii," said Ian Lange, a retired University of Montana geology professor. Cascade volcanos produce a thicker, more viscous type of lava than Hawaiian volcanoes, so it doesn't run as far, Lange said.

The Cascade volcanoes can produce huge clouds of choking ash and send deadly mudslides into rivers and streams. Two of the most potentially destructive are Mount St. Helens, north of the Portland, Ore., metro area, and 14,000-foot Mount Rainier, which is visible from Seattle and Tacoma.

Another major danger from a Cascade volcano eruption would be large amounts of ash thrown into the air, where it could foul aircraft engines.

The closest settlement to a West Coast volcano may be Government Camp, on Oregon's Mount Hood. Lava could conceivably reach the town, but the greater threat is an eruption triggering a so-called pyroclastic flow, which is a fast-moving cloud of hot ash and gas, experts said.

Mount Shasta most dangerous?

But Lange believes California's Mount Shasta is the most dangerous, in part because it is surrounded by towns.

The town of Mount Shasta has numerous response plans for emergencies, including a volcano eruption, police Chief Parish Cross said. But the plan for a volcano is pretty fluid, he said.

"We don't know the size or scope of the event," Cross said, including which direction the eruption would occur.

This is not an issue in Orting, Wash., about 20 miles west of Mount Rainier. Orting would be directly in the path of a lahar, and local officials each year conduct drills in which children move from school to higher ground to escape the flow.

"Our concern is ice and snow melting rapidly on Mount Rainier," said Chuck Morrison, a resident of the town of 7,600 who has long been involved in evacuation planning. "We need a quick way off the valley floor."

Orting is the town most vulnerable to lahar damage from Mount Rainier, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Scientists say that in the worst case, a 30-foot-high lahar with the consistency of wet concrete could rumble through Orting at 50 mph if volcanic activity suddenly melted snow and ice on Rainier.

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