(BIVN) – After a series of strong earthquakes shook the ground around Kilauea on Friday, including a powerful Magnitude 6.9 quake, officials evacuated all visitors and non-emergency staff from Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park and closed the gates until it is deemed safe to reopen.
A press conference was held outside the closed park on Saturday along the side of Highway 11, a road which is under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service but will remain open. Everything else – including the Kahuku Unit in Kaʻū – is shut down. Hikes were canceled and guests at Volcano House hotel and Kilauea Military Camp are being relocated.
UPDATE: Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park will remain closed today and through tonight. Park staff have been busy assessing trails, roads and buildings in the front country areas of the park today, and thus far, minimal damage has been reported, officials say.
“If volcanic and seismic activity remain at current levels in the park, the park could partially reopen Sunday afternoon,” Public Affairs Specialist Jessica Ferracane reported.
Downrift, in the Puna subdivision of Leilani Estates, volcanic fissures have opened up the ground and are spattering lava. A state of emergency exists in the area, miles away from the National Park and the summit area.
Yesterday, the National Park Service reported:
A magnitude-6.9 earthquake struck at 12:32 p.m. Friday, and caused violent shaking throughout the park. It triggered rock slides on park trails, crater walls, and along sections of Chain of Craters Road. A magnitude-5.4 earthquake an hour earlier caused a coastal cliff to collapse into the ocean near the Hōlei Sea Arch. Narrow fissures appeared in the ground at an overlook near Jaggar Museum, and throughout the day, rocks fell into the lava lake within Halema‘uma‘u Crater at the volcano’s summit, creating dark ash clouds.
One of the tremors jolted a group of visitors at the Jaggar Museum overlooking Halema‘uma‘u. The moment was recorded by volunteer Janice Wei.
“There was just a tremendous amount of heavy shaking,” said Ferracane. “As you know, that overlook deck is right on the edge of Kilauea caldera, so we got all the visitors away from that sort of dangerous edge, and we had no injuries. That’s the great thing.”
“We had more than 2,600 visitors still here in the afternoon, and we were able to get everybody out safely by about 5 o’clock,” Ferracane said.