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1,500 Hawaii Residents Ordered To Evacuate As Volcano Erupts


Volcanic eruptions on Hawaii's Big Island have caused hundreds of people to evacuate their homes. This comes after a 5.0-magnitude earthquake struck the island yesterday and follows a series of hundreds of smaller-scale earthquakes that have been rattling the island's Kilauea volcano since Monday. We're joined by Mileka Lincoln. She's a reporter for Hawaii News Now. Welcome to the program.

MILEKA LINCOLN: Aloha. Thank you for having me.

CORNISH: So tell us a little more about this volcano. It continues to erupt. And what's going on with some of the communities that have been affected?

LINCOLN: Well, I can tell you that we were just rocked by what USGS HVO scientists based out of Kilauea volcano could confirm was a 5.6 magnitude earthquake with an epicenter that we're told is only about 18 kilometers from where we are in Leilani Estates, which is the evacuation zone, a residential subdivision that has been shut down by civil defense officials because four eruptions have broke through the surface into this residential neighborhood over the last 24 hours.

CORNISH: And that means lava - right? - has forced residents from their homes. What's been going on?

LINCOLN: That means lava. We are talking about, in some cases, lava fountains 100 to 160 feet in the air, spewing molten-hot lava. And that absolutely has rattled residents who were otherwise thinking they might have a little bit more time to prepare for the possibility of an eruption. That was not the case. In fact, what we have seen this morning is the destruction of two houses. They are the only two structures that have been claimed so far in this flow. We're still efforting (ph) information on exactly who those families are that were impacted, but that was the result of the third eruption that developed in this area earlier this morning.

CORNISH: There have been so many earthquakes leading up to this. How prepared were officials? I mean, what kind of guidance were they giving residents?

LINCOLN: You know, this is one of those situations where everyone who lives in this particular part of the island of Hawaii is aware of the fact that they are living on the slopes of an active volcano. But it just never dawned on them that it was going to of course impact their life in this way, especially so quickly. And that's because it was earlier this week on Monday, April 30, that Pu'u 'O'o crater essentially had a collapse. And that deflation is what created this injection - what they refer to as an intrusion - of lava underneath the surface that has been pushing underground, that has been breaking through rock, creating all of this seismic activity and all of these earthquakes that keep rocking these communities.

And they were told there's a chance there could be an eruption. There's a possibility we could see a surface breakout. Make sure to be aware. Make sure to be prepared. But nobody thought that was going to happen when it did yesterday afternoon. And so now you're seeing people really taking the situation seriously and getting out of the way.

CORNISH: So what has the governor said in the meantime?

LINCOLN: In the meantime, the governor of course has issued every single emergency proclamation that he possibly has at his disposal to make sure that resources can very quickly get mobilized out into this neighborhood that is in need to ensure essentially that the structural infrastructure that is in place here - all of the systems, all of the communications and everything that we need to stay running, to stay informed - stays in place. The National Guard has been activated as well. And for the most part, people are heeding this mandatory evacuation.

CORNISH: That's Mileka Lincoln, reporter for Hawaii News Now. Thank you for the update.

LINCOLN: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF CARLA DAL FORNO'S "CLUSTERS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: May 3, 2018 at 11:00 PM CDT
A previous Web introduction to this story incorrectly said NPR's Audie Cornish spoke with Hawaii Public Radio's Derrick Malama. Cornish actually spoke with Mileka Lincoln of Hawaii News Now.
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