A massive quake measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale jolted Hawaii residents were evacuating from their homes following a volcanic eruption that has not showed any signs of slowing down, authorities said.
The temblor that struck 16 km southwest of Leilani Estates at 12.32 p.m., on Friday, was one of more than 110 earthquakes that hit the island since the Kilauea volcano, one of the world’s most active, erupted on Wednesday, reports CNN.
US Geological Survey (USGS) seismologist Jana Pursley said there have been 119 earthquakes on the Big Island since Thursday afternoon.
The USGS said Friday’s 6.9 quake was the most powerful on the island since 1975.
About 14,000 customers of Hawaii Electric Light lost power immediately after the earthquake.
The quake has knocked out power to residents who were already dealing with mandatory evacuation orders, molten rock and high levels of sulphur dioxide in the air.
The situation wasn’t getting any better, Civil Defence Administrator Talmadge Magno told reporters on Friday afternoon.
“Activity continues. It doesn’t look like it is slowing down,” CNN quoted Magno as saying.
He said five volcanic vents have opened and indicated that at least one house and another structure were destroyed by lava.
It is highly unusual to see the vents so far from Kilauea volcano, he said.
Hundreds of people have evacuated from Leilani Estates, a community of about 1,700 people, and Lanipuna Gardens.
Harry Kim, Mayor of Hawaii County, said the government will support residents, including those who want to go back to their homes to pick up some belongings.
“We have to work with them as to how we are going to minimise (the inconveniences) as best as possible,” he said.
Kim said people who want to check on their homes would be allowed into the neighbourhoods.
Cracks in Kilauea volcano’s rift zone — an area of fissures miles away from the summit — erupted on Thursday and early Friday, spurting lava near the island’s eastern edge.
Video posted on social media showed lava spewing several feet into the air from a new crack in a Leilani Estates street.
Aerial videos showed lava searing a long orange and smoky line through a wooded area.
Hawaii Governor David Ige has activated the National Guard to help with evacuations and security. (IANS)