Hawaii, ‘The Big Island’, is experiencing the unfolding of a hellish tragedy. Mt. Kilauea began erupting on May 3 and since then the southeastern area of the island has been ripped asunder by 21 fissures scarring the jungle paradise, while tremors continue to leave residents feeling the ground beneath their feet is far from stable.

Seismologists are now warning that the Kilauea volcano may be getting ready for a major eruption, reports CNN.

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On May 15, Kilauea emitted a massive billowing curtain of ash 12,000 feet into the air that has caused the rerouting of airline flights and cruise ships.

In response, the US Geological Survey (USGS) issued a red alert signaling that “a major eruption is imminent or underway”.

Michelle Coombs, an official of USGS, has stated that her team of seismologists are not entirely sure what has caused the unleashing of the ash cloud. The occurrence came as the latest fissures have been less active in spewing out lava.

There are concerns among the USGS and other scientists that as the volcanic crater ‘deflates’ as it releases internal pressure through the fissures and from Kilauea proper, the intensely hot base of the crater will eventually come in contact with the islands water table.

US National Parks Service

Once this happens the reaction will be explosive. The heated base will cause an almost instantaneously steam explosion, or phreatic eruption, when it comes into contact with water.

Janet Babb, a geologist from the Hawaii Volcano Observatory, said phreatic eruptions are “notoriously hard to forecast, and can occur with little or no warning.”

The result of such an explosion could send ash and debris 12 miles into the atmosphere.

An explosion of this magnitude is bad enough, but residents and visiting tourists would also endure a pyroclastic flow from Kilauea, a rain of debris containing rocks the size of refrigerators and the equally deadly release of sulfur dioxide clouds from fissures.

US National Parks Service

The island’s Civil Defense Agency, in addressing the sulfur dioxide threat, is quoted as saying, “Severe conditions may exist such as choking and inability to breathe. This is a serious situation that affects the entire exposed population.”

CNN writes that their reporter “Stephanie Elam said her heart started pounding as she approached one fissure.

“’It sounded like hammers in the dryer,’ she said. ‘The molten rock was such a deep vibrant orange that it looked technically altered. When the sulfur dioxide hit my lungs once, it took my breath away.’”

The glacial tide of lava has scorched acres of land and has erased 37 structures from the face of the island.

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