Two new fissures opened on Hawaii’s Big Island this weekend, sending lava 100 feet into the air and forcing more residents to evacuate; this is the 18th active vent to open on the island since the Kilauea volcano erupted on May 3.
Fissure 18 emerged near Halekamahina Loop Road, where fissure 17 erupted early Sunday, with "lava fountaining, explosion of spatter bombs hundreds of feet into the air, and several advancing lava flow lobes moving generally northeast" from the fissure, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said.
Residents in the immediate area were told to evacuate. Nearly 2,000 people have been evacuated since the volcano erupted two weeks ago.
The Hawaii Civil Defense Agency directed vacation rental owners and operators in Lower Puna to cease operations to allow emergency responders to focus on residents who live in the area. They advised vacation renters in the restricted area – by Highway 132 from Leilani Estates to Kapoho, Highway 137 from Kapoho to Kalapana, and Highway 130 from Pahoa to Pohoiki – to find alternative accommodations outside the restricted area as soon as possible.
All beach parks in Lower Puna have been closed, including Pohoiki Boat Ramp. A temporary flight restriction for the area is in effect, as well. Most of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park has been closed until further notice. Only the Park’s Kahuku Unit is open during its normal hours, Friday through Sunday.
According to the Hawaii County Civil Defense, one “unidentified structure” was destroyed by the new crack, bringing the total number of homes and other buildings destroyed to nearly 40.
In addition to the new vents, the U.S. Geological Survey officials warned an explosive eruption is possible at Halemaumau crater at the top of the Kilauea volcano. Ash plumes and dangerous debris may be emitted from Halema‘uma‘u Crater if an explosion occurs.
Residents of Lower Puna between Kapoho and Kalapana have been advised to be on alert in the event of possible volcanic activity in the area.
What travelers need to know
The Hawaii Tourism Authority urged there is absolutely no reason at this time for travelers to change or alter their leisure or business plans.
“All of the Hawaiian Islands are unaffected by Kilauea volcano except a remote area on the island of Hawai‘i’s east side. Out of the island’s 4,028 square miles, only less than a 10-square-mile area of Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens Subdivisions in Puna is affected,” the authority said.
“This is more than 100 driving miles away from the western Kohala and Kona Coasts, where the island’s major visitor accommodations and resorts are located. This is the area furthest from the current activity.”
All flights into Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keahole - KOA (west) and Hilo International Airport - ITO (east) are operating normally.
With the exception of those in the area affected by the lava activity, all accommodations, activities and attractions on the island are also operating normally.
Ross Birch, the executive director of the Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau, said officials “walk the fine line.”
“We know what people are going through in Leilani Estates. And we don’t want to seem callous and inconsiderate in our messaging and our promotion of the island,” he said. At the same time, tourism is the island’s biggest industry and people’s livelihoods are dependent on visitors coming, he said.