Hawaii volcano Kilauea violently erupted in the early hours of the morning, spewing giant rocks and a huge plume of volcanic ash.
The volcano has been erupting for the last fortnight after a series of earthquakes dislodged the crater floor.
The latest activity has sent a giant cloud of ash spiralling more than six miles into the air, putting thousands of lives in danger across the northeast of Hawaii’s Big Island.
So far, 21 fissures have opened up in Puna, oozing lava rivers into the Leilani Estates. The lava has destroyed more than 40 homes and structures so far.
What happened at the Hawaii volcano?
Late Wednesday evening, a series of earthquakes rocked Kilauea, dropping the crater floor by more than 3 feet.
USGS scientists had feared an imminent explosive eruption this week, as building pressure from steam vents pushed the lava closer to the surface.
The USGS had issued a red alert on Wednesday, warning aeroplanes and local residents to be prepared to evacuate or seek shelter in the coming days.
Finally, at 5.17am this morning, a large 4.4 magnitude earthquake forced a violent eruption, spewing giant two-foot-wide rocks hundreds of feet out into residential areas.
A giant plume of volcanic ash was sent rocketing into the air for more than 6 miles, covering a 1.5 kilometre area in its shadow.
Scientists remain on alert for more violent activity in the coming days.
Geologists have warned that the summit could have a separate explosive steam eruption that would hurl huge rocks and ash kilometres into the sky. But it’s not certain when or if that might happen.
No deaths or injuries have been reported as result of the volcano’s activity.
Ken Boyer, a resident of nearby Volcano Village, said he heard no rumbling and saw nothing out of the ordinary as daylight swept in.
“There’s no observable ash fall here right now in the Village,” he said. “It completely covered my vehicle last night but nothing this morning.”
Still, ash will affect local waters for several hours, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency warned. The National Weather Service issued an Ashfall Advisory for the area until noon local time. An Ashfall Advisory means that ash accumulation of less than a quarter of an inch is expected on boats.
The volcano is in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which has been closed since May 11. The lava seeping through fissures has forced the evacuation of nearly 2,000 people 25 miles away near Leilani Estates. More than two dozen homes have been destroyed in the neighbourhood 35 miles from Hilo, the island’s largest city.
The fissures and lava flow there show no signs of stopping two weeks after a series of cracks began opening beneath the area. Wednesday afternoon, open pits or “vents” of lava roared and threw cinder-like ash into the surrounding jungle, igniting smouldering forest fires.