Hawaii's Kilauea volcano spews huge cloud of ash

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Hawaii's Kilauea volcano spewed ash almost six miles (30,000 feet/9 km) into the air on Thursday and scientists warned this could be the first of a string of explosive eruptions in the crater.

Michelle Coombs, a U.S. Geological Survey geologist, described it as a "a big event that got people's attention but not with widespread impact".

"We had prepared for the event", he said.

Cameras in the area show robust billows of smoke as well as massive amounts of ash falling to the ground. That blast sent ash and pyroclastic flow more than 15 miles into the atmosphere and triggered the largest landslide ever recorded, killing 57 people and causing more than $1 billion in damage to surrounding communities. However, the ash did not affect regular commercial air service in Hawaii, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said in an email to Reuters.

A day earlier, "ballistic blocks" shot from Kilauea's same crater, according to USGS, which says it is the first time such an event has been seen at the Hawaiian volcano in almost a century. "They didn't hear it", Ms Aton said.

Officials have said the eruption isn't likely to be unsafe as long as people stay out of the closed park. He's making sure the hundreds of evacuees that are using the shelter have food and a place to sleep, as well as any comfort they need during the stressful time.

Hawaii's Department of Transportation said the wind was carrying the ash plume in a southeasterly direction, and if drivers should find themselves caught in it, they should pull over and wait until it passed. "It's not going to be the only one".

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Hazel said Thursday that it was "time to go" after the volcano sent an ash plume high into the sky following two weeks of lava eruptions from fissures that emerged on the flanks of the volcano. But Kilauea could release hotter, faster-moving and more voluminous lava because magma has moving into the area from further up the volcano, she said. National guard troops were forced to don gas masks at a nearby road intersection, according to a Reuters reporter.

"My equivalent of this _ and I'm from South Florida where we have hurricanes _ is driving quite literally into a hurricane", she said.

There have been no deaths or serious injuries reported during the current eruption.

The Hawaii National Guard troops are assisting in fire prevention, air quality tests and traffic control, as well as preparing evacuation plans and providing support to local law enforcement, said Dana White, the Pentagon's chief spokesperson. New radar measurements estimate the volcanic ash plume to reach 30,000 feet.

In Hilo 30 miles (48 kilometers) from the volcano, Pua'ena Ahn says he has experienced labored breathing, itchy, watery eyes and some skin irritation as ash plumes intensified in recent days. "We as the scientific community feel we owe it to the people being impacted to get it right and learn as much as we can", he says.

So far, 21 fissures have opened up in Puna, oozing lava rivers into the Leilani Estates.

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