Two thousand people, including staff, were forced to leave Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island on April 8 when sulphur dioxide levels from the Puu Oo and Halemaumau craters reached the closure threshold, according to Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando.
The evacuation included the 42-room Volcano House hotel, the Kilauea military camp, which had 180 guests, and the campground.
Orlando ordered the park closed until further notice. Mandatory evacuation was limited to the park, although surrounding areas were placed on high alert. Air quality on most of the Big Island was within federal guidelines, according to health officials.
Puu Oo is on Kilauea's East Rift Zone, and Halemaumau crater is at the summit. The Halemaumau emissions are emanating from a vent in the crater wall that opened in mid-March when pent-up gases resulted in an explosion, the first such event in the crater since 1924. Emissions reached record levels after the explosion but have been leveling off in recent days. However, shifting winds yesterday caused emissions levels within the park to rise.
The National Park Service stressed there is no immediate threat to anyone's safety and that National Park Service emergency responders will remain on duty until further notice.
The park will reopen when favorable winds return and sulphur dioxide levels diminish in the area, according to a statement from the park.
To contact reporter Margaret Myre, send e-mail to [email protected].