Explosive eruption sends ash kilometres over Hawaii volcano
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Explosive eruption sends ash kilometres over Hawaii volcano

An explosive eruption sent ash spewing out nine kilometres into the air above Hawaii's Kilaueau volcano on Thursday and residents of the Big Island were warned to shelter in place as the plume engulfed a wide area, authorities said.

The explosion came after two weeks of volcanic activity and the opening of more than a dozen fissures east of the crater that spewed lava into neighbourhoods.

"Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reports that an Explosive Eruption at Kilauea's Summit has occurred," County of Hawaii Civil Defense said in a phone alert. "The resulting ash plume will cover the surrounding area. Shelter in place if you are in the path of the ash plume."

Geologists had warned explosive eruptions could begin once Kilauea's falling lava lake descended below the water table, allowing water to run on to the top of the lava column and create a steam-driven blasts.

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The powerful, steam-driven blast was expected to spew large amounts of volcanic ash and smoke from Kilauea's crater.

An ash plume resulting from an early morning explosion at Kilauea Volcano on Thursday.

An ash plume resulting from an early morning explosion at Kilauea Volcano on Thursday.

Photo: US Geological Survey/HVO

The powerful explosions could hurl "ballistic blocks" the size of small cars across a distance of more than one kilometre and shoot pebble-sized projectiles and debris up to a 20 kilometres, the USGS has warned.

Residents who live in a nearby town reported light amounts of ash falling following the eruption.

Authorities said the explosion likely only lasted a few minutes and that ash accumulations were minimal, with likely trace amounts near the volcano and at the town, named Volcano.

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The lava that has emerged over the last two weeks has destroyed at least 37 homes and other structures in a small southeast area of the island and forced around 2000 people to evacuate their homes.

Kilauea is one of the world's most active volcanoes. An eruption in 1924 killed one person and sent rocks, ash and dust into the air for 17 days.

The crater sits within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which has been closed since May 11 in preparation for an eruption.

Reuters, AP