Ongoing lava eruptions at Kilauea have created a plume of "laze" - a steam cloud composed of hydrochloric acid and fine glass particles - as of Monday, May 21, as the molten rock flows into the Pacific Ocean off of the Island of Hawai'i. Authorities have warned residents of associated health risks of laze, including lung damage and eye and skin irritation. The US Coast Guard has prohibited all but permitted tour boats from traveling in the affected areas. Additionally, Kamaili Road and Highway 137 between Kamaili Road and Pohoiki Road was closed to all traffic as of Monday morning (local time) due to lava and fires, according to the Hawai'i county Civil Defense agency.
A "red" level aviation alert remains in effect for Kilauea as of May 21, indicating that a major volcanic eruption may be imminent. The decision, 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; 1700 people have already been evacuated in recent days. A number of earthquakes have also shaken the area, the strongest of which have measured 5.0 on the Richter scale.
Kilauea began erupting on May 3. Lava flows have since destroyed dozens of homes and forced the evacuations of thousands of people from the Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens communities. 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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