Since the eruptions began, 37 structures have been destroyed and officials have ordered the evacuations of almost 2,000 people, mostly in the hard-hit Leilani Estates area. Hawaii County Civil Defense warned residents that air quality in the area poses an immediate threat to health.
CBS News correspondent David Begnaud reports from Pahoa that people who live in the area are sleeping at night with gas masks beside the bed just in case the wind shifts direction and toxic fumes start blowing their way.
This is the "first leak we're seeing out of the bucket", Birch said. Eighteen fissures have cracked open in the days since the eruption began, spewing lava through in some residential areas and toward the ocean.
Government officials also said that fissure No. 17, the most voluminous at about a 1,000-feet long, which claimed at least one structure, was still active on Monday, but no homes or roads were impacted. The industry grew the fastest on the Big Island past year compared to other islands in the archipelago, pulling in about $2.5 billion in visitor spending. After the fissure became active enough to cause concern, officials ordered everyone in the area to evacuate and warned volcanic activity across the island was extremely unpredictable at that moment. "In my opinion, the worst scenario includes a combination of large (for Hawaii) explosion at the summit combined with extended (many months) effusion of lava at the lower East Rift Zone", she told Fox News, via email.
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A fissure that opened Sunday led authorities to order 10 people to flee their homes, Hawaii County Managing Director Wil Okabe said. No homes or roads were threatened by the flow.
Geologists warn that Kilauea's summit could have an explosive steam eruption that would hurl huge rocks and ash miles into the sky.
The fissure prompted local officials to issue calls for more evacuations.
The agency says one "unidentified structure" was destroyed by the new vent, bringing the total number of homes and other buildings lost to lava to almost 40. Almost 20 fissures have opened up in those two subdivisions, destroying more than two dozen homes since the eruption began May 3.