Hawaii hit by fiery eruption and earthquakes

Go with the flow: Scientists do not know when the crisis will end. It could be days, or months.

Would you live near a volcano? In Hawaii, Kilauea has erupted dramatically, destroying homes and causing people to flee. Eruptions are common, yet people stay near them. Why?

What’s happening

Kilauea, a volcano in Hawaii, has erupted. Almost 2,000 people have evacuated and 26 homes have been destroyed. Locals saw lava and poisonous gases spew out of giant cracks in the ground. The eruption was accompanied by hundreds of earthquakes, one of them huge. The situation remains unstable.

Find out more

There are around 1,500 active volcanoes on Earth. Millions of people live in their shadows. Dozens erupt each year, sometimes wrecking buildings and even taking lives, although the dangers are decreasing as earthquake prediction technology improves.

Kilauea is highly active; it has been constantly erupting for 35 years. Yet the scale of this one took people by surprise. One local said that living near the volcano is “a gamble that everyone takes. Maybe I’ve lost.”

However, volcanoes do not only destroy. Their ash and lava make the surrounding soil very fertile — ideal for farming. Their underground heat can be used for geothermal energy. Finally, they draw tourists (and therefore money) to an area.

Is it wise to live near an active volcano?

Some say…

Absolutely. The benefits are huge. Volcanic soils are so full of nutrients that they support 10% of humans, despite only covering 1% of Earth’s surface. Iceland, which is full of volcanoes, gets one quarter of its electricity from geothermal energy. Plus, technology has reduced dangers. As long as you are always ready to evacuate, it is worth it.

Others think…

No way. Nothing is worth the constant threat of violent death and destruction. Even modern technology cannot remove all risks, as Kilauea shows. Anyway, eruptions themselves are not the only danger: afterwards, ash hangs around for a long time, causing respiratory problems. You have to be either mad or ignorant to live near an active volcano.

You Decide

  1. Are volcanoes the most terrifying thing in nature?

Activities

  1. Imagine your school is in a volcanic danger zone. In groups, create posters explaining what to do in case of an eruption.

Some People Say...

“No one that encounters prosperity does not also encounter danger.”

Heraclitus

What do you think?

Word Watch

Hawaii
A US state consisting of islands in the Pacific Ocean.
Active
There are three types of volcano. “Active ones” have erupted relatively recently. “Dormant” ones have not, but could do so soon. “Extinct” ones are unlikely to erupt again.
Fertile
Able to produce a lot of crops.
Geothermal energy
Energy produced by Earth’s internal heat. Hot underground rocks heat water, which rises to the surface and powers machines.
Respiratory
To do with breathing.

Subjects

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