A new fissure in Hawaii's Puna District sent gases and lava exploding into the air on Sunday, spurring officials to call for more evacuations as residents waited for a possible major eruption at Kilauea volcano's summit. Hawaii County Civil Defense issued an emergency cellphone alert after the fissure was discovered early Sunday. The agency said one "unidentified structure" was destroyed by the new vent, bringing the total number of homes and other buildings lost to the lava to nearly 40. Residents in the immediate area were told to evacuate. Two nearby community centers are serving as shelters for people and pets, the AP reports.
The lava spread across hundreds of yards of private land and loud explosions rocked the neighborhood not far from Leilani Estates subdivision, where more than a dozen other active vents have opened in the past week. Nearby resident Richard Schott, 34, sat near a police checkpoint and watched as the eruption churned just over a ridgeline, sending rocks flying over trees. "It's like a nuclear reaction or something," he says. The new opening, which measures about 1,000 feet long, was still showing signs of activity Sunday afternoon.The US Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said new fissures, ground deformation, and abundant volcanic gases indicate eruptions on the eastern flank of Kilauea are likely to continue. (Another fissure has opened up near a geothermal plant.)