Measuring about 1,000 feet (300 meters) long, lava from the huge crack also tore through farmland towards a coastal dirt road – one of the last exit routes for around 2,000 residents in the southeast area of Hawaii’s Big Island.
An “unidentified structure” was destroyed as the molten rock travelled east-southeast towards the coastal road – Highway 137 – the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said. To date, around 40 structures have been destroyed by the lava.
Hawaii County Civil Defence issued an emergency alert after the fissure was discovered and officials called for more evacuations as fears grew about a potential major eruption at volcano’s summit.
More fissures are expected to open among homes and countryside some 25 miles east of Kilauea’s smoking summit, possibly blocking one of the last exit routes, Highway 132.
Residents in the immediate area were told to evacuate and two nearby community centres were serving as shelters for people and pets.
Lava spread across hundreds of yards of private land and loud explosions rocked the neighbourhood not far from Leilani Estates subdivision, where more than a dozen other active vents have opened in the past week.
“I’ve actually seen rocks fly over the tree line and I can feel it in my body,” said resident Richard Schott, 34. “It’s like a nuclear reaction or something.”
The US Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said new fissures, ground deformation and abundant volcanic gases indicate eruptions on the eastern flank of Kilauea are likely to continue.
Two more fissures opened in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 19.
“It’s optimistic to think that this is the last fissure we’re going to see,” said Hawaiian Volcano Observatory Deputy Scientist-In-Charge Steve Brantley. A similar seismic event in 1955 lasted 88 days, he said.
“The appearance of the fissures in the past couple of days does not change the overall picture or concern,” USGS scientist Steve Brantley said.
The US Geological Survey has reported nearly 20 active fissures.
The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported the fissures opened just east of the Puna Geothermal Venture energy conversion plant, where steam and hot liquid are brought up through underground wells to feed a turbine generator to produce electricity.
Agencies contributed to this report