Earthquakes damaged roads and buildings on Hawaii's Big Island on Wednesday as ash emissions streamed from the Kilauea volcano. The strongest shaking was recorded around 8:30am, measured as a 4.4 magnitude earthquake, the AP reports. The floor of the summit crater has also dropped about 3 feet, as the threat of a strong, explosive eruption at the top of the volcano looms. The ground has been deflating as the crater's lava levels fall, causing stress faults around the crater to move and resulting in the earthquakes. More are expected.
There were occasional bursts of ash coming from the crater, causing ash to fall downwind to several communities, though there were only trace amounts. Ash plumes on Tuesday had spouted as high as 12,000 feet into the air, scientists say. These plumes are separate from the lava eruptions happening roughly 25 miles away from the summit, where about 20 lava fissures have destroyed more than two dozen homes and forced the evacuation of about 2,000 residents. Scientists say earthquakes may shake loose rocks underground and open up new tunnels for lava to flow through. Hawaii Gov. David Ige says the state is forming a joint task force that can handle mass evacuations of the Big Island's Puna district if lava from the volcano covers major roads and isolates the area.
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