Sputtering lava, strong earthquakes, and toxic gas jolted the southern part of the Big Island of Hawaii as magma shifted underneath a restless Kilauea volcano. The trifecta of natural threats forced stressed out residents to evacuate and prompted the closure of parks and college campuses on Friday. Multiple new vents, from which lava is spurting out of the ground, formed in the same residential neighborhood where molten rock first emerged Thursday. At midday Friday, a magnitude 6.9 earthquake struck—the biggest of hundreds of quakes this week and the largest to strike the state in 43 years, per the AP. Residents were also warned to watch out for dangerous levels of sulfuric gas, but no injuries have been reported so far, reports KHON.
Hawaiian Volcano Observatory spokeswoman Janet Babb said the earthquakes reflected the volcano adjusting to the shifting magma. "The magma moving down the rift zones, it causes stress on the south flank of the volcano," Babb said. "We're just getting a series of earthquakes." The lava lake at Kilauea's summit crater dropped significantly, suggesting the magma was moving eastward toward Puna, a mostly rural district of forests, papaya farms and lava fields left by past eruptions. Officials ordered more than 1,700 people out of Big Island communities near the lava, warning of the dangers of spattering hot rock and high levels of sulfuric gas that could threaten the elderly and people with breathing problems. Two homes have burned.