6.9 earthquake strikes Hawaii near erupting volcano

HONOLULU (KABC) -- A 6.9-magnitude earthquake rocked Hawaii near an erupting volcano on Friday, just an hour after a 5.4-magnitude earthquake also hit nearby.

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The massive quake was centered near the south flank of Kilauea volcano, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said the quake wasn't strong enough to cause a tsunami. No tsunami threat or advisory is in place.

The temblors are just two of several smaller earthquakes also striking the area.

Hawaii County Civil Defense said Friday's 5.4 earthquake was centered near the south flank of Kilauea volcano.

The first hit about 1.2 miles from Kapaahu and 17.8 miles from Hawaiian Paradise Park. It all started at about 2:30 p.m. PST.

Hawaii County Acting Mayor Wil Okabe said the larger quake cracked a beam in a county gymnasium in Hilo, forcing workers to be sent home.

Hawaii Electric Light said the jolt knocked out power to about 14,400 customers, but electricity was restored about two hours later.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park evacuated all visitors and non-emergency staff. The quakes triggered rock slides on park trails and crater walls. Narrow fissures appeared on the ground at a building overlooking the crater at Kilauea's summit.

The quakes come after a volcanic eruption that began Thursday, which spewed molten lava that chewed through forests and bubbled up on paved streets. One resident described the scene as "a curtain of fire."

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Heavy smoke, ash, lava continue to spew from Hawaii's Kilauea volcano.

Two new volcanic vents, from which lava is spurting, developed Friday, bringing the number formed to five.

Scientists were processing data from the earthquakes to see if they were affecting the eruption, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory spokeswoman Janet Babb said.

"The magma moving down the rift zones, it causes stress on the south flank of the volcano," she said. "We're just getting a series of earthquakes."

Seismologist Dr. Lucy Jones tweeted that the 6.9 earthquake has a "non-double-couple focal mechanism that implies it is not just movement on a fault, but rather involves movement of fluids."

State Sen. Russell Ruderman said he could feel strong shaking in Hilo. He said merchandise fell off the shelves in a natural food store he owns. He also felt shaking during an earlier magnitude-5.4 earthquake.

He said residents are stressed out about earthquakes while coping with the lava threat from Kilauea volcano, which has burned two homes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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