Tina Neal, the scientist-in-charge of the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcanoes Observatory, said geologists don't expect the summit eruption to be life-threatening so long as people stay out of the national park.
Hawaii officials have had a busy month pleading with travelers to keep their plans even as dramatic images of natural disasters afflicting the islands have bombarded televisions and social media feeds. Those types of big blowouts usually take place in stratovolcanoes, steep-sided, cone-shaped volcanoes where pressure builds up in a central vent until the mountain pops in a dramatic explosion.
While locals contend with lava and gas on the ground, explosions at Kilauea's summit, about 40km to the west are dusting downwind communities with ash that is an irritant to eyes and breathing.
It could hurl boulders the size of a refrigerator several kilometres away from the crater.
Volcanologists believe these explosions happen when a lava lake - a large volume of molten lava often contained in a crater or volcanic vent - drops and groundwater is able to seep into the resulting shaft, or lava tube. "We know it is a distinct possibility".
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Kilauea, however, is a shield volcano, where basaltic lava flows nearly continuously out of a summit crater and other vents, building a flat dome.
Scientists on the Big Island of Hawaii on Friday underscored their recent statements that the oozing magma, which has so far destroyed dozens of homes and forced thousands of people on the Big Island of Hawaii to evacuate, may not be as big a threat as the destructive lava flows that could soon hit the island. "If you're near the crater, within half a mile, you could be subject to ballistic blocks weighing as much as 10 or 12 tons", Donald Swanson of the Obervatory tells The Washington Post.
The danger zone from such a blast could extend about 3 miles (5 kilometers) from the summit, land that all falls within the national park, Mandeville said.
Officials said earlier this week they had planned to move the pentane over the next few weeks but accelerated the effort because of the ongoing lava threat.
Since the eruption started more than a week ago, 36 structures, including 27 homes, have been destroyed. The fuel was expected to be removed by the end of Thursday. Smigelski-Theiss says she's anxious potential flight disruptions would strand them on the island.
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About 2,000 people have been evacuated from the neighborhoods were lava has oozed from the ground.
Hawaii's governor has warned that mass evacuations may be required as more fissures open in the ground and spew lava and gas into semi-rural residential areas on the east flank of Kilauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes.
"I'm not too anxious about it because I've lived here so long and I've seen it go through lots of different episodes", Hughes said.
No one lives in the immediate area of the summit crater, the crater and surrounding region are a part of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which planned to close Friday. "We don't know what's going on underground".
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