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In the last two weeks, 21 fissures have split open the earth and spewed lava in and around the residential communities of Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens, forcing evacuations and destroying 37 structures.

The communities are located on Kilauea volcano’s lower East Rift Zone, where magma flows underground, but before this month lava had not come up to the surface of the ground since 1955.

It is not clear if or when the nearly 2,000 people who live in the area will be able to return to their homes. So far, 26 homes and 11 structures have been destroyed by lava, and much of the area has lost electricity. It’s also becoming difficult to access the area as roads have been covered with lava or have wide cracks cutting across them.

Meanwhile, at the summit of Kilauea volcano, the lava lake at the Halemaumau crater drained in early May, causing an explosive eruption Thursday that sent ash shooting 30,000 feet into the air.

“We’re still watching things real closely,” USGS geologist Michelle Coombs said during a press conference after the explosive event. “We may have additional larger, more powerful events, kind of like what we saw earlier this morning.”

Residents in the lower Puna area who have not already evacuated have been told to be ready to leave at any time, as the eruption continues to be unpredictable.

“This looks like it will probably go on for a long period of time,” Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno said Wednesday during a press conference.

Michelle Broder Van Dyke is a reporter and night editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Hawaii.

Contact Michelle Broder Van Dyke at

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