Mile-long lava path flows towards ocean in Hawaii

The first pictures are emerging of what Hawaii's Kilauea volcano eruption looks like from space.

But the spectacle of lava fountains and spatter bombs shooting into the air while rivers of molten rock devour neighborhoods on the Big Island naturally raises questions about the 800-mile-long chain of volcanoes on the West Coast, including Washington's Mount St. Helens, voted "most likely to erupt next" by the U.S. Geological Survey. Kilauea is considered to be the world's most active volcanoes which have been erupting on a frequent basis since the past 35 years.

Authorities say the volcano has produced almost 20 active lava fissures and destroyed more than two dozen homes. The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory says a lava flow has now formed and is slowly moving toward the ocean, which is about two miles (3.2 kilometers) away. As a result majority of the population form, such sector has been forced to evacuate. President Trump declared a major disaster area in Hawaii on May 11. More than two dozen homes have been destroyed.

Geologists warn Kilauea's summit could have an explosive steam eruption that would hurl huge rocks and ash miles into the sky. "These explosions could project ballistics up to 2 m [6.6 feet] across as far as a kilometre [0.6 miles]. This scenario last happened in 1924", she wrote.

Since Kilauea began erupting on May 3, almost 2,000 people have been ordered to evacuate as 18 giant fissures ripped through the area, including two new ones that opened on Sunday with ear-piercing screeches that sent lava and rocks flying.

Despite the worrying scale of the Kilauea's latest spate of activity, Klemetti said there is "very little-to-no chance" that the volcano could have a global impact, or even impact the Hawaiian towns of Hilo or Kona.

"Best case is easy: the eruption ends soon", said Klemetti. "Communities downslope of these fissures could be at risk from lava inundation". "Hawaii took people by surprise".

Columbia University's Lev agrees that a rapid decline in the magma supply is the best possible outcome, one which would see "things quiet back down".

Hawaii County Civil defense said all 1,900 residents of the Leilani Estates and Laipuna Garden areas have been evacuated. Since then, almost 2,000 people have been evacuated from the neighborhood.

Vanessa Coleman