May 9th, 2018

Hawaii Volcanic Activity

Posted at 2:00 AM ET

hawaii1Event Summary

On Thursday, May 3, the Island of Hawaii experienced an eruption in the Kilauea volcano summit. Two large earthquakes occurred the following day among hundreds of smaller quakes and some large aftershocks. There have been a total of 10 fissures confirmed so far by the County of Hawaii, with an estimated 387,000 square feet of lava spread. At least 35 structures have been destroyed according to the Government of Hawaii, and evacuations have affected at least 1,700 people. The most severely affected area is the Leilani Estates Subdivision, which is located directly in the Lower East Rift Zone. It is too early to estimate the scope and severity of impacts, and our first thoughts and concerns are with those directly affected by this active event.

Geological Background

The Kilauea Volcano, located on the Island of Hawaii, is among the world’s most active since 1983. The eruption was reported on Thursday, May 3, following collapse of the crater floor and seismic activity less than a week earlier. Government officials issued a warning for the East Rift Zone after closing roads and suspending tourism. The lava lake dropped roughly two meters (6.6 feet) per hour for a period of time, resulting in a total drop of about 220 meters (721 feet) since collapse of the crater on April 30.

On Friday, earthquakes were triggered as a result of faulting on the south flank of the Kilauea Volcano, otherwise known as “the east rift zone,” including a magnitude 6.9. This is the largest earthquake since the 1975 Kalapana quake, which occurred on a basal detachment fault rather than the shallower rift zone where recent events took place. There have since been over 500 quakes through the weekend, including four aftershocks of magnitude 4.5 or greater.

Impacts

According to media reports and the County of Hawaii, aerial surveys reveal at least 35 structures lost in the Leilani Estates Subdivision. Active venting of lava and hazardous fumes continue to affect the area. Evacuations have affected at least 1,700 people. Conditions permitting, evacuees are allowed to check on their property from 7AM until 6PM each day, although access remains closed to Lanipuna Gardens due to hazardous fumes. Of those displaced, at least 161 people have been moved to two emergency centers.

Meanwhile, the department of education announced that Pahoa High, Intermediate, and Elementary schools are open and operating as normal. However, some other schools are temporarily closed, including Kua o Ka La, Hawaii Academy of Arts and Sciences, Nawahiokalaniopu’u, and Ke Ana La’ahana.

The Hawaii Electric Light Company is working to keep power online. However, access to water has been compromised for certain areas. The Department of Water Supply is working to establish a temporary bypass waterline to restore water supply to Pohoiki, Vacationland, and Kapoho. A water truck is also located near Vacationland mailboxes for public use, according to the County of Hawaii.

Sources: USGS, Reuters, County of Hawaii, The Weather Channel

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Guy Carpenter publishes CAT-i reports for major natural catastrophes worldwide. These reports cover catastrophes including worldwide tropical cyclones, earthquakes, major UK and European floods and any other natural event that is likely to incur a significant loss to the (re)insurance industry. Please email CAT.i@guycarp.com if you wish to be added to the free email distribution list.

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