Magnitude 4.4 quake recorded in Hawaii as Kilauea volcano erupts


By Alfred Acenas
EBC Hawaii Bureau

HONOLULU, United States (Eagle News) — Within less than three years since its last eruption in 2018, Kīlauea Volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island is once again showing signs of increased activity.

The US Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) recorded a magnitude 4.4 earthquake located beneath Kīlauea Volcano’s south flank on Sunday, December 20, at 10:36 pm Hawaii time (4:36 pm Philippine Time). HVO estimated the eruption began at around 9:30 pm. (Hawaii time)

The earthquake was centered within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park at a depth of 6 kilometers (4 miles). Whereas weak to light shaking at Intensity IV has been reported across Big Island, scientists believe that such an intensity will not cause significant damage to buildings or structures. They also assured the said tremor did not trigger any tsunamis.

According to HVO acting Scientist-in-Charge David Phillips, “HVO continues to monitor Kīlauea as the situation is rapidly evolving with this evening’s eruption at the summit of Kīlauea. We will send out further notifications on Kīlauea and other Hawaiian volcanoes as we observe changes.”

-Over 50 meter-high lava fountains-

At around 1:00 am local time, USGS officials reported lava fountains that shot about 165 feet (50.2 meters) into the sky were feeding a growing lava lake within the crater. The lake replaced the water that was once seen in the deepest part of the crater.

Eyewitnesses have photographed a column of thick smoke with a bright orange glow rising into the nighttime sky.

Local civil defense officials described that trade winds will push any embedded ash and other volcanic debris to the southwest, impacting communities like Wood Valley, Pahala, Naalehu, and Ocean View. Although evacuations were not ordered as of this report, they have warned residents there to stay indoors to avoid ash exposure.

Meanwhile, US Congressman-elect Kai Kahele stated on Twitter that his home in Hilo got rocked with a 4.4 magnitude earthquake. He added, “Just when you thought 2020 couldn’t get any worse now we have lava & embedded falling ash to deal with.”

Kilauea’s latest eruption, along with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, are among the first major challenges for Big Island’s new Mayor Mitch Roth, who was sworn in on December 7.

(FILE) A daytime look at Kilauea Volcano’s Halema’uma’u Crater, which has been active since 1983. (Photo by Des Acenas/EBC Hawaii Bureau/Eagle News Service)

(Eagle News Service)