A magnitude 5.6 quake has struck the summit of Hawaii's Kilauea volcano summit, sending a plume of ash and rock about 10,000 feet into the sky. The tropical countryside with lush greenery and pristine neighborhoods have all been engulfed with clouds of volcanic ashes, hurdles of lava and molten rocks ever since the latest eruptions on May 3rd.
Officials with the U.S. Geological Survey said Wednesday that the entire neighborhood of Vacationland has been covered by lava, and the nearby Kapoho subdivision has only a few structures remaining.
Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim confirmed Thursday that more than 600 homes had been destroyed by lava from Kilauea volcano since it erupted early last month.
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The latest estimate of property losses from Kilauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes, far surpasses the 215 structures consumed by lava during an earlier eruption cycle that began in 1983 and continued almost nonstop over three decades.
The natural disaster struck just three miles from the volcano which has been erupted constantly for over a month.
"Our responsibility is to try to work with the community to rebuild out of harm's way", Kim said.
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Lava erupts in Leilani Estates during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, June 5, 2018. The lake was hundreds of feet deep in some places.
Frequent earthquakes, mostly of relatively small magnitude but numbering in the thousands, have persisted throughout the eruption, adding to the jitters of residents living closest to the volcano. Scientists said that while the height of the lava is variable depending on the source and local topography, much of the area is covered in 10 to 20 feet (3 to 6 meters) of lava.
A live webcam stationed at the summit shows volcanic gas and ash pouring from the crater vent.
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In addition to property damage, the eruption has severed highways, knocked out power and telephone services and shut down a geothermal plant that usually provides about a quarter of the island's power.