May 17, 2018 12:35 pm
Updated: May 18, 2018 8:49 am

Explosive eruption rocks Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano summit

WATCH ABOVE: Scientists bracing for more following explosion at Hawaii's Kilauea volcano.

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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

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

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

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.

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.”

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“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.

“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.

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.

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

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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