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Explosive eruption rocks Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano summit

Click to play video: 'Scientists bracing for more following explosion at Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano' Scientists bracing for more following explosion at Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano
WATCH ABOVE: Scientists bracing for more following explosion at Hawaii's Kilauea volcano. – May 18, 2018

An explosive eruption rocked the summit of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano, spewing a large plume of ash nearly nine kilometres into the sky early Thursday.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) the eruption occurred about 4 a.m. local time as the steam-driven blast flung volcanic ash and smoke from the crater on Big Island.

WATCH: USGS time-lapse cameras capture latest eruption at Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii

Click to play video: 'USGS time-lapse cameras capture latest eruption at Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii' USGS time-lapse cameras capture latest eruption at Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii
USGS time-lapse cameras capture latest eruption at Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii – May 17, 2018

Hawaiian County Civil Defense Agency warned residents to “shelter in place” as a result of the drifting ash plume.

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IN PHOTOS: Images from space, on the ground capture size and destruction of Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano

“The wind will carry the plume toward the southeast. You should shelter in place if you are in the path of the ash plume,” the agency said in a statement. “Driving conditions may be dangerous so if you are driving pull off the road and wait until visibility improves.”

WATCH: Stunning view of the Kilauea volcano eruption in Hawaii captured from observatory

Click to play video: 'Stunning view of the Kilauea volcano eruption in Hawaii captured from observatory' Stunning view of the Kilauea volcano eruption in Hawaii captured from observatory
Stunning view of the Kilauea volcano eruption in Hawaii captured from observatory – May 17, 2018

The volcano first erupted nearly two weeks ago and has forced the evacuation of some 2,000 residents. Nearly 40 structures have been destroyed as a result of the eruptions, but no deaths or injuries have been reported.

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A USGS red alert remains in effect, advising that a “major volcanic eruption is imminent, underway, or suspected with hazardous activity both on the ground and in the air.”

The state’s defence agency later said the danger from the latest eruption is “ash fallout.”

IN PHOTOS:

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A woman takes a photo as an ash plume rises from the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island on May 15, 2018. Mario Tama/Getty Images
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Kilauea volcano's summit lava lake shows a significant drop of roughly 220 metres below the crater rim in this wide angle camera view showing the entire north portion of the Overlook crater in Hawaii, U.S. May 6, 2018. USGS
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Lava and downed power lines block a road in the Leilani Estates subdivision during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii, May 8, 2018. Reuters/Terray Sylvester
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In this May 5, 2018 file photo, offerings of ti leaves, rocks and cans to the fire goddess Pele, lie in front of lava as it burns across a road in the Leilani Estates subdivision as a man takes pictures of the flow near Pahoa, Hawaii. AP Photo/Caleb Jones
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Fire breaks out at the forest as dozens of structures have been destroyed by scorching lava flows following a massive volcano eruption on Hawaii's Big Island, May 8, 2018. USGS
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Lava flows from the crater of Kilauea volcano as dozens of structures have been destroyed by scorching lava flows following a massive volcano eruption on Hawaii's Big Island, May 6, 2018. USGS
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Smoke and lava erupt from a fissure near a home on the outskirts of Pahoa during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, May 14, 2018. Reuters/Terray Sylvester
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People watch as ash erupts from the Halemaumau crater during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, May 15, 2018. Reuters/Terray Sylvester
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Lava shoots into the night sky from active fissures on the lower east rift of the Kilauea volcano, Tuesday, May 15, 2018 near Pahoa, Hawaii. AP Photo/Caleb Jones
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Cracks and volcanic debris are seen on a road in Leilani Estate, Hawaii, U.S., May 9, 2018. Xinhua/Tao Xiyi via Getty Images
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Lava flows at a new fissure in the aftermath of eruptions from the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island as a local resident walks nearby after taking photos on May 12, 2018 in Pahoa. Mario Tama/Getty Images
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People watch as ash erupts from the Halemaumau crater during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, May 15, 2018. Reuters/Terray Sylvester
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People play golf as an ash plume rises in the distance from the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island on May 15, 2018 in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Mario Tama/Getty Images
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Ash plume rises following a massive volcano eruption on Kilauea volcano in Hawaii on May 17, 2018. Lava is spewing more than 60 metres into the air and spread around 36,000 square metres. USGS

“The major response is to protect yourself from fallout. If this event occurs while you are at home, stay indoors with the windows closed,” the agency said in a statement. “Turn on your radio and listen for updates from authorities.

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“After the hazard has passed, do check your home, and especially your catchment system for any impact that may affect your water quality,” the agency said.

READ MORE: Red alert issued for Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano – here’s what we know so far

The USGS warned that volcanic activity “may again become more explosive, increasing the intensity of ash production and producing ballistic projectiles near the vent.”

The agency said volcanic air pollution (volcanic gas or vog) was reported in the area of Pahala, downwind of the crater.

WATCH: Officials with the United States Geological Survey say an explosion at a volcano in Hawaii early Thursday morning sent clouds of ash some 30,000 feet into the air.

Click to play video: 'Hawaii volcano: Latest explosion sent ash cloud 30,000 feet into air' Hawaii volcano: Latest explosion sent ash cloud 30,000 feet into air
Hawaii volcano: Latest explosion sent ash cloud 30,000 feet into air – May 17, 2018

Earthquakes rattled the Big Island into late Wednesday, with the largest recorded at a magnitude of 4.4. The tremors caused several cracks on the island’s major highway and damaged several buildings in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

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Geologists had warned that the summit could have a separate explosive steam eruption that would hurl huge rocks and ash kilometres into the sky.

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