Hawaiian authorities issued an indefinite mandatory evacuation order for a 17-block area in Leilani Estates on Thursday, May 31, amid ongoing volcanic eruptions in the area, giving residents remaining in the zone 24 hours to evacuate before being subject to arrest. The directive expands the territory in roughly the same area which has been under existing voluntary evacuation and curfew orders. These new orders come as ongoing lava eruptions in the East Rift Zone have threatened to cut off the remaining escape route in the affected area (i.e. Highway 137); National Guard helicopters remain ready to evacuate residents if necessary. Prevailing winds have carried vog (volcanic smog made of sulfur dioxide and other gases) to the south and west of the Island of Hawai'i.
A "red" level aviation alert remains in effect for Kilauea as of May 31, indicating that a major volcanic eruption is "imminent, underway, or suspected with hazardous activity both on the ground and in the air." The initial decision to issue such warning, made by the US Geological Survey (USGS) on May 15, came amid intensifying ash eruptions and the production of rock projectiles from volcanic explosions. Additional lava, gas, and ash eruptions are expected at Kilauea and the East Rift Zone in the coming days. Consequent transportation disruptions and evacuations are possible in the near-term. Notably, flight disruptions due to the presence of ash in the atmosphere are possible in the coming hours and days, including at Kona International Airport (KOA).
Residents on the Island of Hawai'i near the ongoing eruptions have been told to be prepared to evacuate on short notice; around 2500 people have already been evacuated in recent weeks. Several earthquakes have shaken the area, the strongest of which measured 6.9 on the Richter scale. At least 75 homes have been destroyed by recent lava eruptions. Lava has also damaged and destroyed power and telephone lines, causing associated power outages and communications disruptions.
Kilauea began erupting on May 3. Most of Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park has been closed since May 11 as a precaution. US President Donald Trump has declared a state of major disaster in Hawaii, making federal funding available for recovery operations.
Individuals in Hawaii are advised to avoid the affected area, monitor the situation, confirm flight reservations, follow any instructions issued by the local authorities (e.g. evacuation orders), and wear respiratory masks and covering clothing to protect skin from ashfall in affected areas.
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