One of the most active volcanoes on Earth, Hawaii’s Kilauea, has begun erupting, the US Geological Survey has confirmed.
Webcam footage of the volcano’s Halemaumau crater showed lava fountains covering the floor of the crater and billowing clouds of volcanic gas were rising into the air. The same area has been home to a large lava lake at various times throughout the volcano’s eruptive past.
The eruption is not in an area with homes and is entirely contained within Hawaii Volcanoes national park.
The volcano’s alert level has been raised to “warning” and the aviation code changed to red.
Earlier on Wednesday, officials said increased earthquake activity and ground swelling had been detected, and at that time raised the alert levels accordingly.
Kilauea had a major eruption in 2018 that destroyed more than 700 homes and displaced thousands of residents. Before that eruption, the volcano had been slowly erupting for decades, but mostly not in densely populated residential areas.
Before the major 2018 eruption, Kilauea had been erupting since 1983 and streams of lava occasionally covered rural farms and homes. During that time, the lava sometimes reached the ocean, causing dramatic interactions with the water.
Over four months in 2018, Kilauea spewed enough lava to fill 320,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools, burying an area more than half the size of Manhattan in up to 80 feet (24 meters) of now-hardened lava. The molten rock reduced landmarks, streets and neighbourhoods to a vast field of blackened boulders and volcanic shard.
The same area of the volcano that began erupting Wednesday also erupted in December and lasted until May.
Hawaii Volcanoes national park spokesperson Jessica Ferracane told the Associated Press that she had not yet arrived at the park, but that colleagues reported seeing some lava spatter and glow within the summit crater.
“He saw that from Volcano House, which is at least 2 miles away from the eruption site, so I suspect … we’ll be able to see a pretty glow, and who knows what else,” she said.
The Volcano House is a hotel and restaurant within the national park adjacent to the visitor centre. The park is open to visitors.
Ferracane said the area that is erupting is not close to where people can hike or drive. Trails downwind from the eruption have been closed for years.
“The park is open and there are no road closures at this time,” Ferracane said.