Volunteers From Colorado Help Volcano Victims In Hawaii

Handout.  Reuters                   A geologist inspects cracks on a road in Leilani Estates following eruption of Kilauea volcano Hawaii May 17

Hawaiians have been given face masks and told to take shelter after scientists warned the Kilauea volcano, which has destroyed homes, could become more violent within hours.

Two hundred miles separate Oahu from the Big Island, where lava flows and the threat of a massive volcanic explosion have drawn worldwide attention to rural subdivisions on the island's east side.

Michelle Coombes said the eruption had temporarily relieved some pressure in the volcano but there may be more, larger powerful events.

The staff at the volcano observatory has been evacuated as well.

After an eruption from the Kilauea volcano's summit shot ash and smoke 30,000 feet into the air on Thursday, officials handed out nearly 18,000 masks to help residents deal with the fallout.

The immediate risk health risk comes from ash particles in the air, said Dr. Josh Green, a state senator who represents part of the Big Island, also called Hawai'i Island. Ash plumes on Tuesday had spouted as high as 12,000 feet (3,657 meters) into the air, scientists said.

Some Big Island residents had feared "the big one" after Kilauea shot anvil-sized "ballistic blocks" into the visitors' auto park on Wednesday and was rocked by earthquakes that damaged buildings and cracked roads in the park that was closed last week. "It's not going to be the only one".

"A lot of my friends from the mainland, they have been inundating me with, 'Are you OK?' A lot of them think we're (just) one island", she said.

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The County of Hawaii Civil Defense also warned people to "protect yourself from ash fallout".

Geologists said the 4:15 a.m. (10:15 a.m. EDT) explosion was likely the first in a series of steam-driven blasts last seen in 1924, rather than "the big one" that nervous residents had feared as Kilauea was rocked by earthquakes in recent days.

An animated GIF the USGS tweeted out shows how far the ash cloud might travel.

PAHOA, HI - MAY 16: Eruptive activity from the Kilauea volcano continues in the vicinity of fissure 17 with cooling lava (center and center left) on Hawaii's Big Island on May 16, 2018 in Pahoa, Hawaii.

The masks do not protect against sulfur dioxide, a toxic gas that is still seeping from 21 fissures caused by volcanic activity.

What is happening at Kīlauea is fundamentally different from that 1980 eruption, experts said.

"They said they slept through it".

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