Nearly 1,500 Hawaii residents were ordered to evacuate their homes this week after the Kilauea volcano’s decades-long eruption sent lava shooting up from the ground in a residential neighborhood, officials say.
Cracks miles away from the volcano — called rifts — burst with lava on Thursday afternoon, burning trees and sending many running from their homes at Leilani Estates on Hawaii’s big island, according to CNN. CNN reported that the lava shot several feet in the air from a crack in a street in the neighborhood.
Jeremiah Osuna, who lives in a nearby estate, flew a drone over the community and said he saw a “curtain of fire,” according to KHON.
“It sounded like if you were to put a bunch of rocks into a dryer and turn it on as high as you could. You could just smell sulfur and burning trees and underbrush and stuff,” Osuna said, according to KHON.
“I couldn’t believe it. I was kind of shaken a little bit and realizing how real everything is, and how dangerous living on he East Rift can be.”
On Thursday, Mayor Harry Kim declared a state of emergency in Hawaii County, according to a statement from Hawaii Gov. David Ige. Ige announced in a tweet on Thursday that he had activated the Hawaii National Guard to help with security and evacuations.
“I urge residents in Leilani Estates and the surrounding areas to follow instructions …” he tweeted just hours before the announcement. “Please be alert and prepare now to keep your family safe.”
Footage of the town showed lava flowing through a wooded area as a rift appeared with flames. Several shelters have been opened in surrounding towns as officials have detected “extremely high levels of dangerous Sulfur Dioxide gas in evac area,” according to the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency.
The burst came after hundreds of earthquakes rattled the area for days, with a magnitude 5.0 quake recorded shortly before Thursday’s explosion, according to the Associated Press. The quakes were triggered after the Puu Oo crater floor began to collapse on Monday.
Kilauea’s Puu Oo cone initially erupted in 1983, and lava has continued to flow since, destroying homes in the ’80s, in 1990, and even in 2014, according to the New York Times.
Ikaika Marzo, who lives in Puna, was there for them all. Marzo told KHON that he drove around Leilani Estates on Thursday, checking on residents and providing help. He said the earth continued to shake even hours after the initial burst.
“We’ve been feeling hard jolts and tremors still yet. Some of the activity has subsided already, but it’s not done. I don’t think it’s done yet,” he told the station. “There are still plumes going out. There’s a couple cracks that’s close by that still have steam coming out. That’s an indication that there could be eruption. There’s a lot of glow, a lot of fires.”