Hawaii was placed on red alert for airplanes flying over the area on Tuesday after Kilauea sent plumes of ash and volcanic smog in the shape of a cloud 12,000 feet up into the air. The warning from the state of Hawaii comes amid fears that a major eruption from the volcano is either underway or possible in the coming days.
Reuters reported on Tuesday that the ash carried as far as 18 miles from the eruption site, and authorities have warned both residents and tourists on the island that the volcano could continue to be hazardously active in the coming days. “At any time, activity may become more explosive, increasing the intensity of ash production and producing ballistic projectiles near the vent,” said the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory in a statement. An “unhealthy air” advisory was also put in place for the residents of the area surrounding the volcano.
Shifting winds are expected to spread ash and volcanic smog across the island throughout the day on Wednesday. According to Reuters, the most hazardous conditions are being experienced in and around the village of Pahoa, about 25 miles down the eastern flank of the volcano, where lava has spewed from the ground and made escaping from the area a daunting but necessary task for residents. Even so, the past 12 days have seen no reports of casualties as a result of the volcanic activity.
As of Wednesday afternoon, 37 homes and buildings on Hawaii’s Big Island have been destroyed as a result of volcanic activity since the eruptions began on May 4, and 2,000 residents in the areas surrounding the volcano have been evacuated from their homes. It is yet to be clear whether additional evacuations will be necessary.