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After the eruption of the Kilauea Volcano on Hawaii's Big Island, a lava flow engulfed everything in its path.
USA TODAY

An insidious lava flow erupting from the volcano Kilauea on Hawaii's Big Island destroyed more than two dozen houses, forced some 1,700 people to flee, and raised a picturesque and peaceful community

How Unusual Is That? The fact that Kilauea is blowing its tip should come as no surprise: Kilauea, located in the southeastern part of the Big Island, is one of the world's most active volcanoes – and it has been erupting for hundreds of thousands of years

This particular episode began late Thursday afternoon in Leilani Estates, a subdivision near the picturesque town of Pahoa and 30 minutes south of Hilo

More: On Hawaii's Big Island: Nearby Kilauea volcano, normal life none of us', elsewhere, business as usual

Why is it breaking now? "We do not know enough details about the internal Pipelines to give really precise answers to this question, "said Tracy Gregg, a lecturer in geology at the University of Buffalo. "The short answer is that a lump of new magma was injected deep into the volcanic structure deep beneath the volcano." That, along with the general instability of the Kilauea volcano in general, has caused the magma to erupt near Leilani Estates "The volcano's southeastern flank is unstable and will one day fall into the ocean, and as it slowly breaks away from the rest of the volcano, it leaves a light underground path for the magma.

How long will the episode last? "There is more magma (underground lava) in the system that needs breaking out. As long as this supply is there, the outbreak will continue, "said US Geological Survey volcanologist Wendy Stovall. [19659012] In short, this outbreak may or may not be over.

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What are the dangers Lava is one of the main hazards of volcanoes at temperatures in excess of 2,000 degrees.

While lava traverses steep slopes, it often breaks into one billowing avalanche of hot rock and gas called pyroclastic flow, pyroclastic flows destroying everything on their way In 1902, a pyroclastic stream from Mount Pelée in Martinique in the nearby town of St. Pierre killed 30,000 people in two minutes. [19659012] The lava flows have damaged areas around Kilauea for decades, and the rivers destroyed a visitor center in 1989 trum on Kilauea and overran the village of Kalapana on the southeast flank of the volcano in 1991, according to the US Geological Survey

Who is threatened by the gases? Kilauea produces sulfur dioxide. When much sulfur is blown in the same direction, it can kill plants and lead to respiratory failure in humans – as well as the etching of glasses or car windows, Gregg said. As usual in Hawaii, during the eruption the winds blew mainly from the east and spread the stinking air up to 60 miles across the southern part of the island.

Kilauea is a shield volcano. What does that mean? A shield volcano is wide and arched with sloping sides of liquid, gas-poor lava that does not explode.

This is in contrast to volcanoes like Mount St. Helens, which are made up of thick, sticky, gas-rich lava that explodes and forms ashes.

Is this the longest erupting volcano in the world? No. There are submarine volcanoes along the mid-ocean ridges of the earth that break out longer. Each of the Hawaiian volcanoes tends to be active for about a million years before becoming extinct.

More: The volcano Hawaii is besieged by lava flows: we know that

Is Hawaii used to volcanoes? Eruptions? Because of their volcanic activity, the Hawaiian Islands are no strangers to eruptions. Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea are two other large volcanoes on the Big Island. On Maui, Haleakala Volcano accounts for 75% of the island.

The deadliest Hawaiian outbreak in recent history occurred in 1790, when 400 people were killed during an outbreak of Kilauea. One of the more spectacular recent events was in 1983, when Mauna Loa erupted and lava spewed hundreds of feet into the air.

How common are volcanoes? The US and its territories contain 169 geologically active volcanoes, 54 of which pose a very high or high threat to public safety, according to the US Geological Survey.

Worldwide there are about 1,500 potentially active volcanoes, excluding volcanoes.

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