President Trump declares Hawaiian volcano eruption a major disaster

At Kīlauea when the lava column drops below the water table groundwater may come into contact with with magma or hot rocks causing violent steam explosions

Scientists believe lava that's been erupting is magma that's been stored in the ground since Kilauea volcano erupted 63 years ago.

Scientists on the Big Island of Hawaii on Friday underscored their recent statements that the oozing magma, which has so far destroyed dozens of homes and forced thousands of people on the Big Island of Hawaii to evacuate, may not be as big a threat as the destructive lava flows that could soon hit the island.

As long as people stay away, they will be safe, Johnson said, noting that residents are likely well aware of the potential dangers while tourists may be less so.

Hawaii's governor David Ige has signed a Presidential Disaster Declaration request to ask U.S. President Donald Trump to declare the state of disaster due to volcanic eruption on the Big Island and ongoing earthquakes.

The pant sits on the edge of Leilani Estates, one of the areas where almost 2,000 residents have been forced to evacuate as Kilauea spewed lava.

"It's just disgusting. You can't breathe in there", said evacuated resident Robynn Stagg, 58, who drove through the thick, orange sulfur dioxide haze earlier this week in a failed attempt to check on her home.

While Kilauea has the potential to fire rocks and boulders into the sky, no one resides in the immediate area of the summit crater, part of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which was set to be closed Friday.

As the volcanic eruption enters its second week - assessments continue and additional requests will be made when federal requirements are met.

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Trump approved the Hawaii governor's request declaring the state a "major disaster" late Friday night ahead of warnings that continuing volcanic eruptions could cause enormous damage to the islands and its residents.

Kilauea, however, is a shield volcano, where basaltic lava flows nearly continuously out of a summit crater and other vents, building a flat dome. She's anxious potential flight disruptions would strand them on the island.

What could happen is not an eruption of volcanic gases but mostly trapped steam from flash-heated groundwater released like in a kitchen pressure cooker, with rocks, said volcanologist Janine Krippner of Concord University in West Virginia.

In little more than a week, the top of the lava lake has gone from spilling over the crater to nearly 970 feet (295 meters) below the surface as of Thursday morning, Mandeville said.

No new fissures have emerged, leaving the total number at 15, authorities said.

However, even if Kilauea does begin an explosive eruption, geologists say it will not be an event like Mount Saint Helens or other major eruptions.

The small, aptly named town of Volcano, Hawaii, population 2,500, is about three miles from the summit. In April, swarms of earthquakes began in the area, and in May the crater began erupting, ejecting gas, ash and boulders up to 14 tons during 50 eruptions over the course of two and a half weeks.

Authorities also ordered workers to remove flammable pentane from a geothermal plant that is near communities that saw lava oozed from cracks in the ground.

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