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Kilauea could erupt with 'once-in-a-century' explosion, geologists warn

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The Ecuadorian volcano Tungurahua spews lava and ash in Cahuaji about 80 miles south of Quito in February 2016. Authorities raised the alert level from yellow to orange after the volcano increased its activity and projected a column of ash 3 miles high

Residents on the Big Island of Hawaii were alerted on Thursday to rising levels of toxic gas from lava-oozing fissures, and geologists warned that new areas east of the erupting Kilauea volcano may be at risk of molten rock bursting from the ground. The threat of future explosions was not the only bad news to come out in the past 24 hours.

NASA's space satellites have been monitoring the eruptions and growth of lava fields at Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano, according to The Weather Channel. "There may not be any additional warning before the magma actually starts moving up to the surface". If more rocks and boulders fall into the crater, it could create a blockage and pressurize steam as the lava reaches groundwater levels.

Scientists fear that, as lava and superheated rocks meet the water table below ground, steam could accumulate and cause an explosion that hurls massive rocks into the sky.

Geologists said Kilauea may be entering a phase of explosive eruptions not seen in almost a century that could hurl "ballistic blocks" weighing up to 12 tons for 800 metres, shoot pebble-sized projectiles for miles and dust downwind towns with volcanic ash and smog.

"What we've already been seeing is that chunks of the surrounding vents are just dropping off into the lava and that's why we're getting these small explosions", said Jessica Johnson, a volcanologist at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom.

Kilauea has a history of phreatomagmatic explosions. "It could last days, weeks, years".

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As a result of that event, the lava lake that once existed there disappeared, though one returned in 2009. Szigeti noted that the Big Island is "immense" and there are large parts of the island unaffected by the volcano.

"We know what people are going through in Leilani Estates". "We know it is a distinct possibility". If another blast happens, the danger zone could extend about 3 miles around the summit, land all inside the national park, Mandeville said. Since last week, lava has been siphoning away for the volcano's summit, breaking through the ground in the 15 fissures.

If volcanologists can better understand Kilauea and underlying reasons for its seemingly unusual behaviour, Johnson said it could help them better understand other volcanoes.

And the further the lava level drops, the more precarious the situation becomes.

The magma that has emerged so far has been relatively cool and slow-moving, believed to be left over from a similar event in 1955.

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