New eruption at Hawaii Kilauea volcano prompts evacuation, produces volcanic ash cloud higher than Mount Everest

The Kileaua volcano first erupted May 3.

May 17, 2018, 9:57 PM

A powerful but short-lived explosion occurred at the summit of the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island, producing a massive volcanic cloud, officials said.

The cloud reached 30,000 feet above sea level -- higher than Mount Everest, officials said at a news conference.

Staff from the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park were evacuated and officials warned residents in the path of the ash plume to shelter in place. Officials later said the ash fall was mostly localized.

PHOTO: A view is captured from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory in Kilauea, Hawaii, May 17, 2018.
A view is captured from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory in Kilauea, Hawaii, May 17, 2018.
USGS via Polaris
PHOTO: This May 17, 2018, image provided by the U.S. Geological Survey shows a view of the ash plume resulting from an early morning explosion at Kilauea Volcano, in Hawaii.
This May 17, 2018, image provided by the U.S. Geological Survey shows a view of the ash plume resulting from an early morning explosion at Kilauea Volcano, in Hawaii.
U.S. Geological Survey/HVO via AP
PHOTO: This photo provided by U.S. Geological Survey shows the ash plume at the Kilauea Volcano, taken from a Mauna Loa webcam, on May 17, 2018, in Hawaii.
This photo provided by U.S. Geological Survey shows the ash plume at the Kilauea Volcano, taken from a Mauna Loa webcam, on May 17, 2018, in Hawaii.
U.S. Geological Survey/HVO via AP

Activity may become more explosive at any time, the U.S. Geological Survey said today, "increasing the intensity of ash production and producing ballistic projectiles near the vent" within Halemaumau Crater at the volcano's summit.

PHOTO: Ash plume rises following a massive volcano eruption on Kilauea volcano in Hawaii, on May 17, 2018.
Ash plume rises following a massive volcano eruption on Kilauea volcano in Hawaii, on May 17, 2018.
USGS/Handout/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The newest eruption follows a damaging earthquake, dangerous volcanic smog and large lava flows that are all threatening Hawaii's Big Island.

Kileaua erupted May 3, and since then, fissures have been steadily cracking open near residential areas. Nearly 40 structures have been destroyed, officials said.

Volcanic smog -- known as "vog" -- is now being emitted by the fissures, traveling toward populated areas and threatening residents with dangerous sulfur dioxide.

PHOTO: People play golf as an ash plume rises in the distance from the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island, May 15, 2018, in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii.
People play golf as an ash plume rises in the distance from the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island, May 15, 2018, in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii.
Mario Tama/Getty Images

One man and his pregnant wife said they and their toddler had just moved to the island from Seattle when the volcano erupted.

This morning, they decided to evacuate because it was too difficult to breathe.

"This is no condition to give birth to a baby in," the young mother told ABC News.

Her husband added, "You put your pregnant wife on an airplane and send her off to Hawaii, you're not thinking the volcano is gonna wreck everything."

PHOTO: This image released by the U.S. Geological Survey on May 17, 2018 shows lava spattering  from an area between fissures 16 and 20 at 8:20 a.m. HST from the Kilauea Volcano, May 16, 2018.
This image released by the U.S. Geological Survey on May 17, 2018 shows lava spattering from an area between fissures 16 and 20 at 8:20 a.m. HST from the Kilauea Volcano, May 16, 2018.
HO/AFP/Getty Images
PHOTO: Lava illuminates volcanic gases from the Kilauea volcano at fissure 13 on Hawaii's Big Island, May 16, 2018, in Pahoa, Hawaii.
Lava illuminates volcanic gases from the Kilauea volcano at fissure 13 on Hawaii's Big Island, May 16, 2018, in Pahoa, Hawaii. The U.S. Geological Survey said a recent lowering of the lava lake at the volcano's Halemaumau crater 'has raised the potential for explosive eruptions' at the volcano.
Mario Tama/Getty Images

On Tuesday, large rock falls into the Halemaumau Crater created a giant series of ash plumes, and on Wednesday scientists found 2-foot-wide rocks that had been hurled from the crater in the parking lot a few hundred yards from Halemaumau.

"These reflect the most energetic explosions yet observed and could reflect the onset of steam-driven explosive activity," the park service said Wednesday, citing U.S. Geological Survey data.

PHOTO: This image released by the U.S. Geological Survey on May 17, 2018 shows a view uprift from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory overflight at 8:25 a.m.HST from the Kilauea Volcano, May 16, 2018.
This image released by the U.S. Geological Survey on May 17, 2018 shows a view uprift from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory overflight at 8:25 a.m.HST, as sulfur dioxide plumes rise from the fissures along the rift and accumulating in the cloud deck from the Kilauea Volcano, May 16, 2018.
HO/AFP/Getty Images
PHOTO: This May 15, 2018 photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey shows incandescence observed at Fissure 14 around 10:30 a.m. HST at Kilauea Volcano, in Hawaii.
This May 15, 2018 photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey shows incandescence observed at Fissure 14 around 10:30 a.m. HST at Kilauea Volcano, in Hawaii.
U.S. Geological Survey/HVO via AP

A 3.5 magnitude earthquake also struck near the summit of the volcano on Wednesday, damaging roads and buildings, rupturing water lines and causing a temporary loss of power.

Of the 20 fissures that cracked open with lava, the biggest was on Chris Berry’s 18-acre homestead.

“We noticed cracks in the road, and shortly afterward, it just blew. It was so fast,” Berry told ABC News. “Where the lava is now used to be a giant bowl -- it’s completely filled now.”

The pastureland where cows and sheep once roamed is now filled with a lake of lava 60 feet deep.

Berry, a father of three and Grammy-winning musician, said his home has been severely damaged by lava bombs and all but two acres have survived the lava’s onslaught. The volcanic eruption is harming his livelihood, he said, as he owns a music retreat and cultural center on his land.

PHOTO: Lava from active fissures illuminates volcanic gases from the Kilauea volcano as stars shine on Hawaii's Big Island, May 15, 2018, in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii.
Lava from active fissures illuminates volcanic gases from the Kilauea volcano as stars shine on Hawaii's Big Island, May 15, 2018, in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii.
Mario Tama/Getty Images
PHOTO: Lava shoots into the night sky from active fissures on the lower east rift of the Kilauea volcano, May 15, 2018, near Pahoa, Hawaii.
Lava shoots into the night sky from active fissures on the lower east rift of the Kilauea volcano, May 15, 2018, near Pahoa, Hawaii.
Caleb Jones/AP
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