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After an eruption from the Kilauea volcano's summit shot ash and smoke 30,000 feet into the air on Thursday, officials handed out nearly 18,000 masks to help residents deal with the fallout. While the ash being launched into the sky is not poisonous, Hawaii County officials have warned residents about toxic sulfur dioxide seeping out of 21 fissures caused by the volcano.

Mount Pinatubo last erupted in 1991, killing more than 350 people in what became the second-largest eruption of the 20th century.

"Volcanic eruptions, like the one in Hawaii and the one earlier this month at Cleveland Volcano in Alaska, are vivid reminders of why it is so critical to have continuous and reliable monitoring systems", Murkowski said. The local authorities had issued a red aviation code warns pilots to avoid potentially unsafe cloud of ash.

Kilauea is one of five active volcanoes on the island of Hawaii.

An aviation red alert was issued due to risks that ash could be carried into aircraft routes and damage jet engines.

The lava has destroyed at least 26 homes and 10 other structures.

Cruise lines have been getting questions about Hawaii with the intensive news coverage of two weeks of explosions from the Kilauea volcano on the Big Island.

Scientists warned on May 9 that a drop in the lava lake at the summit might create conditions for an explosion that could fling ash and refrigerator-sized boulders into the air.

George Kourounis sits at Kilauea Hawaii in 2006 during a visit to the volcano
George Kourounis sits at Kilauea Hawaii in 2006 during a visit to the volcano

It caught sight of an explosive eruption on Thursday morning at Kilauea's summit.

At a press conference, U.S. Geological Survey volcanologist Michelle Coombs said this is one of the biggest volcanic eruptions they've ever seen.

"Smog from Kilauea drifted north up the island chain as the districts of Kau, Puna, and North and South Hilo were told by the National Weather Service to expect ashfall".

Thursday's eruption sent ash about 30,000 feet above sea level.

As Ugalde watched from outside her house, she said the plume above the trees began to spread and moved over her home.

Hawaii volcano Kilauea violently erupted in the early hours of the morning, spewing giant rocks and a huge plume of volcanic ash.

"In the old days, people used to love to come see the volcano. They'd even take their little postcards, burn one corner in the lava flow, mail then off, stuff like that", he said.

The USGS posted webcam footage of an ash plume billowing from Kilauea's summit, and a plume of ash from an observation tower. "Now they're acting like it's all super-dangerous and everything, but it just kind oozes out". Mount St. Helens last rumbled to life in 2008, but a massive eruption in 1980 killed 57 people and blew ash over a dozen states. But the youngest volcano on the island of Hawaii actually has a long history of eruptions dating back thousands of years.

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