The Kilauea volcano eruption has been intensifying and experts have warned a new explosion is “imminent” as the United States Geological Survey (USGS) applies a red alert.
Geologists with the Hawaii Volcano Observatory have said activity at Halemaumau Crater shows indicative signs of potential steam-driven explosions.
Live footage from USGS overlooking the Halemaumau Crater shows a huge plume of ash shoot up from the crater and engulf the sky in a dark grey cloud.
In a statement Wednesday, officials said they found rocks up to 2 feet in size in a parking lot a few hundred yards from the crater.
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HVO officials said: ”These reflect the most energetic explosions yet observed and could reflect the onset of steam-driven explosive activity.
“Further observations are necessary to asses this interpretation. Additional such explosions are expected and could be more powerful.”
The USGS issued the highest possible warning, meaning “major volcanic eruption is imminent, underway, or suspected with hazardous activity both on the ground and in the air”.
The government agency warned planes could be impacted by the ash cloud if travelling into air routes.
Hawaii officials have also warned that toxic gas from the volcano could suffocate residents as the latest air quality tests prove “hazardous” for nearby residents.
They said: “Severe conditions may exist such as choking and inability to breathe.
“This is a serious situation that affects the entire exposed population.”
Up to 2000 nearby residents have so far been evacuated from the volcano’s danger zone after a destructive lava flow engulfed more than a dozen homes.
So far, no fatalities or serious injuries have been reported as a result of the Kilauea volcano eruption.
Kilauea is located at the southern tip of Big Island and when it first erupted at the start of May it spewed lava and high levels of sulphur dioxide into the sky.