Four weeks into its eruption, Hawaii's Kilauea volcano continues to spew molten lava across The Big Island's East side - cutting off access to more neighborhoods and destroying 87 homes, ten of which happened in the last two days.
Scientists are also baffled after aerial drone footage showed concerning changes within Kilauea's main summit crater - including unexplained cracks at the bottom which are spewing hot steam. Concerns have been raised that an "expanding collapsed crater" and debris blocking the vent could trigger a massive new explosion.
USGS UAS mission on 5/31/18 films dramatic changes within Halema»uma»u crater at K+lauea's summit; rubble-covered floor, cracks, faults, steaming, sulfur precipitate – all at this changing eruption site. https://t.co/C9nyOsnCM1 pic.twitter.com/lRYDMKkJmS
The Halema‘uma‘u crater has undergone a sudden transformation since the eruptions began in early May, including the surprising disappearance of a lava lake.
The drone footage from the US Geological Survey (USGS) shows "yellow sulfur substance on the rubble-covered floor and a scattering of large ballistic blocks around the crater rim".
USGS officials revealed that the empty vent once housed a 12-acre lava lake up until a few weeks ago. -Express.co.uk
What happens next is unknown:
“It’s possible that new explosions will blast through the rubble at the bottom of the vent, and these may or may not be larger than previous explosions,” said USGS geophysicist Kyle Anderson. “It’s also possible that the vent could become permanently blocked, ending the explosions entirely.”
The steady collapse of the crater's internal walls due to draining magma has also enlarged the mouth of the vent considerably - which has grown from 12 acres to 120 acres. The summit itself has also sunken at least five feet in elevation while magma levels continue to drop.
Meanwhile, Hawaii's Highway 137 has been blocked by lava, cutting off access to Kapoho, Vacationland, Hwy 132 and possibly the Puna Geothermal power plant.
#BREAKING #LeilaniEstatesEruption #KilaueaVolcano UPDATE: @CivilDefenseHI confirms flow crossed Hwy137, south of Four Corners after crossing Hwy132 north of intersection last night; NO ACCESS to Kapoho, Vacationland, Hwy132 & Hwy137 https://t.co/SKpW7U3GoL @HawaiiNewsNow #HINews pic.twitter.com/Q0PgTxa66E