Possible 15th fissure opens in Leilani

  • Smoke and steam rise from a thirteenth fissure that opened near the intersection of Kahukai Street and Leilani Avenue. After the 13th and 14th fissures opened in Leilani Estates Tuesday afternoon, another opening was observed near the northeastern corner of Leilani Estates, in the vicinity of the 13th and 5th fissures. However, it is currently unclear whether the new opening is a distinct 15th fissure or an extension of a previous one. Tom Callis/Hawaii Tribune-Herald

HILO — A possible new fissure has opened in Leilani Estates, potentially bringing the number of fissures in the subdivision up to 15.

After the 13th and 14th fissures opened in Leilani Estates Tuesday afternoon, another opening was observed near the northeastern corner of Leilani Estates, in the vicinity of the 13th and 5th fissures.

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However, it is currently unclear whether the new opening is a distinct 15th fissure or an extension of a previous one.

The 13th fissure opened near the intersection of Leilani Avenue and Kahukai Street, near where the 5th fissure opened last week. The 14th fissure opened between Kaupili and Hookupu Streets, not far from the site of the 3rd fissure.

Hawaii County Civil Defense has ordered all residents to leave the Lanipuna Gardens area, citing “immediate danger.”

Talmadge Magno, director of Hawaii County Civil Defense, said the combination of the new fissures and the direction of the wind posed significant dangers to Lanipuna Gardens, with dangerously high levels of sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere.

However, the evacuation does not currently apply to Leilani Estates, Magno said. The western portion of the subdivision is, he said, largely safe from fumes for now.

Magno also said no significant lava flow was reported from the new fissures, and the Puna Geothermal Venture, where is stored approximately 60,000 gallons of highly flammable pentane, is safe.

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At least one residence near the 13th fissure caught fire Tuesday afternoon. Magno said the number of confirmed structures destroyed is now 36.

The previous 12 fissures have remained inactive since Monday evening.