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Hawaii on high alert amid volcano activity

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Although volcanic activity has slowed down, officials warn that the episode is not over yet.

Resident Sam Knox, 65, rides his bicycle to the edge of a lava burn across a road in Leilani Estates in Pahoa, Hawaii. Anxious residents on the Big Island of Hawaii hunkered down for what could be weeks or months of upheaval as the dangers from an erupting Kilauea volcano continued to grow. Picture: AP

Washington: Volcanic activity which has damaged structures on Hawaii’s Big Island slowed late on Saturday, but officials warned the episode was not over.

“Everything is still elevated,” said the Hawaii County Civil Defence administration.

Several fissures were confirmed in a housing estate on the island earlier on Saturday, a day after earthquakes associated with an erupting volcano put people in the US archipelago on edge.

Two additional vents were detected and were spurting lava, bringing the total number of fissures to eight.

However, one is not showing activity at this time, Hawaii’s Civil Defence said in a statement.

The extent of the damage caused by a 6.9-magnitude quake and several other tremors that struck on Friday is not known, but officials said at least two structures were significantly damaged and a number of roads have been covered in lava or severely cracked, Hawaii News Now reported.

No injuries had been reported, but a state of emergency remains in effect on Big Island.

The eruption of Kilauea has triggered mandatory evacuations in Leilani Estates, where the eight cracks, some several hundred metres long, have opened.

The eruption began last Monday with the collapse of a lava-filled crater in the volcano, said Wendy Stovall, a volcano expert at the US Geological Survey (USGS).

The lava started flowing from the crater downhill into a network of underground channels, Stovall told the Los Angeles Times.

On Thursday it started gushing out of the fissures that opened in the housing estate. Not all fissures remain active, the USGS said. Stovall said the situation was “continually evolving”.

There are concerns about high levels of sulphur dioxide gas being emitted through the cracks.The gas can turn into acid rain, which can burn the skin.

People were instructed to stay indoors, run air conditioners and air purifiers and buy filter masks to protect themselves against the gas. – dpa/ African News Agency (ANA)