NEWS
04/05/2018 12:31 SAST | Updated 04/05/2018 15:08 SAST

Mandatory Evacuations Ordered As Lava Spews Into Hawaii Residential Neighbourhood

Dramatic videos show lava and steam bursting through cracks in the Big Island's Puna district.

Kilauea, one of Hawaii's most active volcanos, erupted on Thursday, spewing lava and steam into a nearby residential neighbourhood and prompting officials to issue a mandatory evacuation notice.

The American Red Cross opened two shelters to accommodate evacuees from the subdivisions of Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens, located in the Puna district on the Big Island. It remains unclear how many people were impacted by Thursday's evacuation order, but The Associated Press, citing 2010 census numbers, said Leilani Estates has a population of about 1,500.

Dramatic videos captured near the subdivisions showed red lava and steam bursting through cracks in the ground, both on roadways and winding through a forest.

Resident Ikaika Marzo told Hawaii News Now that he saw "fountains" of lava "topping 100 to 125 feet" [~30-37.5m] in the area.

State governor David Ige (Democrat) activated the Hawaii National Guard and urged residents in other parts of Puna to stay vigilant. Local officials also cautioned residents to be ready to leave.

"We are telling people [in the area] to be prepared for immediate evacuation," Hawaii County spokesperson Janet Snyder told Pacific Business News. Up to 10,000 people could be affected by the volcanic threat, the paper reported.

Thursday's eruption occurred just hours after an earthquake, with a preliminary magnitude of 5.0, rattled the Big Island. The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said the quake "caused rockfalls and possibly an additional collapse" of Puu Oo, a crater on the Kilauea volcano that's been crumbling since Monday. A large cloud of pink ash rose from the crater.

Janet Babb, a geologist with the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, explained to NPR earlier this week that Puu Oo's collapse had forced magma to flow underground, triggering the hundreds of earthquakes that have shaken the island in the past few days.

The earthquakes have caused cracks to appear in the ground, raising the possibility of lava eruptions. Such an event could happen "quickly" and would be "nearly impossible to predict," Babb said.

According to Hawaii News Now, the last time lava spewed into Puna was in 2014. Roads were closed and evacuations were also ordered at the time.

Additional reporting by HuffPost's Carla Herreria.