Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano has exploded, sending ash clouds 30,000 feet into the sky — here are before-and-after photos of the destruction

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DigitalGlobe; Business Insider/Jeremy Berke

Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano exploded Thursday morning, sending an ash plume thousands of feet into the sky.

The eruption occurred shortly after 4 a.m. local time, Hawaii’s Civil Defense Agency said. The eruption shot ash more than 30,000 feet up. Authorities evacuated people from around Kilauea’s crater area and warned those in the vicinity of the volcano to take shelter.

Earlier this week, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) issued a rare “red alert” warning, which meant that a major eruption was imminent and that the ash clouds emitted from the volcano could affect air traffic. Those warnings have since come to fruition.

The volcanic eruptions on Hawaii’s Big Island have been escalating for about two weeks, causing severe damage to residential neighborhoods surrounding the Kilauea volcano. Over 1,000 people have evacuated.

The USGS warned on Twitter Thursday morning that “vog” – a form of air pollution caused by volcanic eruptions -will be severe following the explosion. The volcano is expected to continue belching noxious fumes like sulfur dioxide, which can make breathing difficult for children and the elderly.

DigitalGlobe, a technology firm that operates a network of private satellites, provided Business Insider with a series of satellite images showing the damage from the eruptions. Below, photos of the affected neighborhoods from 2017 are juxtaposed with images of the same area taken earlier this week, before the most recent explosion (which means damage is likely even worse now).

Here are the before-after-photos of the damage:


The Leilani Estates neighborhood in Kilauea’s East Rift Zone has sustained the worst damage from the eruption. The area is pictured here on May 24 of last year.

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Image taken by DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-2 satellite on May 24, 2017.
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Satellite image ©2018 DigitalGlobe, a Maxar company

In Leilani Estates and surrounding neighborhoods today, lava is spewing from at least 20 fissures, or cracks in the ground. It has burned houses, vehicles, and infrastructure.

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Image taken by DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-3 satellite on May 14, 2018.
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Satellite image ©2018 DigitalGlobe, a Maxar company

Like much of Hawaii’s Big Island, the Leilani Estates neighborhood was formerly lush and verdant.

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Image taken by DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-2 satellite on May 24, 2017.
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Satellite image ©2018 DigitalGlobe, a Maxar company

But many parts of the neighborhood now look brown due to burning and ash. Here’s a view of an active fissure on a property in Leilani Estates.

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Image taken by DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-3 satellite on May 14, 2018.
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Satellite image ©2018 DigitalGlobe, a Maxar company

Leilani Estates is home to almost 2,000 residents. Here’s another view of it in 2017.

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Image taken by DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-2 satellite on May 24, 2017.
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Satellite image ©2018 DigitalGlobe, a Maxar company

In parts of that neighborhood today, lava is piled up over 40 feet thick.

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Image taken by DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-3 satellite on May 14, 2018.
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Satellite image ©2018 DigitalGlobe, a Maxar company

Over 1,000 residents are still unable to occupy their homes. Now that the eruption has gotten more violent, geologists say it’s hard to predict when it will subside.

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Image taken by DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-3 satellite on May 14, 2018.
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Satellite image ©2018 DigitalGlobe, a Maxar company

In response to a Twitter user who asked about when the eruption might stop, the USGS tweeted: “We can’t predict that, unfortunately. Volcanoes don’t work on schedules!”