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Trump declares Hawaii a disaster zone amid volcano eruption

By Sommer Brokaw
A 2,000-foot-long fissure of lava fountains erupted within the Leilani Estates subdivision, sending a huge plume of gas and smoke skyward, on the east rift zone of the Kilauea volcano threatening homes of hundreds in Hawaii island last week. Photo by Bruce Omori/EPA/Paradise Helicopters
A 2,000-foot-long fissure of lava fountains erupted within the Leilani Estates subdivision, sending a huge plume of gas and smoke skyward, on the east rift zone of the Kilauea volcano threatening homes of hundreds in Hawaii island last week. Photo by Bruce Omori/EPA/Paradise Helicopters

May 12 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump has declared Hawaii with volcanic eruptions since last week a disaster zone, as the Big Island braces for more volcanic eruption damage.

The major disaster declaration clears the way for federal funding assistance after a series of earthquakes have shook the Big Island since May 3, sparking multiple eruptions of lava and volcanic ash.

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After the Kilauea volcano erupted, the lava burned 37 structures including 27 homes, and forced 1,700 evacuations.

The Hawaii Volcano Observatory reported "no significant lava flow" from a new fissure Saturday morning, but said that "conditions could change quickly." Further, "elevated earthquake activity and ground deformation continue and additional outbreaks in the area remain likely," the report said.

Hawaiian Gov. David Ige thanked the president for disaster relief in light of the ongoing seismic activity.

"This opens the door to federal assistance and demonstrates a solid partnership with the federal government as we work to keep Hawaii residents safe and support recovery efforts on Hawaii Island," Ige said in a written statement released to the Hawaii Tribune-Herald.

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In his request for disaster relief, Ige explained the need for "more than $400,000 in emergency protective measures for the lava flow and earthquakes in the Kilauea East Rift Zone." Ige added that the "estimated cost to protect residents over the next 30 days is expected to exceed $2.9 million."

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