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These plumes are separate from the lava eruptions happening about 25 miles (40 kilometers) away from summit, where about 20 lava fissures have destroyed more than two dozen homes and forced the evacuation of about 2,000 residents.

"We had prepared for the event", he said.

But they say they expect no loss of life given that the most exposed residential areas have been evacuated and the region where the volcano is located - on the southeastern part of the island - is not densely populated.

Scientists are warning this morning's explosive eruption on the summit of Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could be the first of many.

"So a big event that got people's attention but not with widespread impacts", Michelle Coombes said.

In a video, you can see ash plumes and flying debris clearly visible in the early morning skies. "It's a trickle-down effect that affects everybody", she said. "It's not going to be the only one".

Depending on weather conditions, the USGS said, ash might fall as far as Hilo, 30 miles (50 km) to the northeast.

Since the latest eruption started on the big island, on May 3, the United States Geological Survey has been monitoring the danger and updating us with some devastating imagery on social media. "Persons with respiratory illnesses should remain indoors to avoid inhaling the ash particles and all persons outside should cover their mouth and nose with a mask or cloth".

Explosive eruption at Hawaii volcano

USGS scientists use Ash3D computer simulations to show how far ash might travel and how much ash might fall to the ground.

"I don't think there is a big one that's coming", said University of Hawaii volcanologist Scott Rowland.

In May 1924, the Hawaii Volcano Observatory reported more than 50 explosive events over the course of two-and-a-half weeks at the volcano's summit.

Even so, the county issued guidance to the community, noting that "The danger from this eruption is ash fallout", and added that residents need to protect themselves from the fallout.

The masks do not protect against sulfur dioxide, a toxic gas that is still seeping from 21 fissures caused by volcanic activity.

Scientists can not say why the eruption is happening now, given that Kilauea has been active for 35 years.

Kilauea's falling lava lake has likely descended to a level at or below the water table, allowing water to run on to the top of its lava column and create steam-driven blasts, they said.