Hawaii's Kilauea volcano explodes into eruption

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"I don't think there is a big one that's coming", said University of Hawaii volcanologist Scott Rowland. On Tuesday, a plume of ash from the volcano rose 12,000 feet into the air, dropping ash on sections of the island.

Geologists said the 4:15am explosion was likely to be the first in a series of steam-driven explosions last seen in 1924, rather than "the big one" that nervous residents had been fearing.

But clearly, not everyone was so anxious.

These plumes are separate from the lava eruptions happening about 25 miles (40 kilometers) away from summit, where about 20 lava fissures have destroyed more than two dozen homes and forced the evacuation of about 2,000 residents.

Hawaii County officials have warned residents about sulfur dioxide, which is so thick in one area that authorities evacuated a neighborhood.

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"It's a real dynamic situation up there", she said of the summit.

"Just a little while ago we had something that sounded like thunder", Hoyt said. Kilauea is one of the world's most active volcanoes, erupting nearly continuously since 1983.

Magno said 18,000 masks that protect from particulates like ash were given out Thursday. Join us in a conversation about world events, the newsgathering process or whatever aspect of the news universe you find interesting or important.

Scientists warned May 9 that a drop in the lava lake at the summit might create conditions for a large explosion. Due to elevated sulfur dioxide levels in the area, local schools are also closed, Hawaii County Civil Defense said. Whereas St. Helens sits along the geologically active boundary of the Pacific Plate, Kilauea and the other Hawaiian volcanoes are powered by inside the Earth's mantle.

Across the Big Island, home to 200,000 residents, people were encouraged to take caution driving, as ashfall can make roads slippery, and not go outdoors unless necessary.

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There have been no deaths or serious injuries reported during the current eruption.

Hawai'i's Kilauea volcano has spewed ash almost 9 kilometres into the air and scientists have warned this could be the first of a violent string of explosions in the crater.

The immediate risk health risk comes from ash particles in the air, said Dr. Josh Green, a state senator who represents part of the Big Island, also called Hawai'i Island.

Thursday's event was, if not the big one, then certainly a big one, researchers said.

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