Hawaii's Kilauea volcano eruption: More cracks open, others come back to life

PAHOA, Hawaii -- More cracks have opened in the ground on Hawaii's Big Island, launching red hot lava and dangerous gas into the air. Over the last days, two new fissures --- ground cracks bursting with lava -- remind the Big Island of the Kilauea volcano's menace.

Another fissure surfaced in Leilani Estates, where roughly 1,700 residents have been evacuated. It's the 20th fissure and it only looks as though it's the entrance to hell. A mountain of black lava -- churning lava behind it -- is a small reminder of how much volcanic energy lurks beneath the surface.

Other fissures, silent for days, have come back to life. Satellite images over the last two weeks show how much the volcano's main crater has expanded. 

"It is important to tell us the age of the lava. ... It's definitely thrilling to be this close to a lava flow," said geologist Elise Rumpf. 

Not for the Kelley family -- one of 1,800 residents who got free protective gas ash masks on Thursday, when the biggest eruption yet sent ash 5 miles into the sky.

"Ashfall is basically silica, glass, and that's what you don't want in your mouth," said resident Dean Kelley. 

Two weeks worth of lava has overwhelmed Lailani Estates, and the nearest fissure is where you see that steam rising and this particular flow of lava stretches for a half mile. Scientists don't know whether the volcano's big explosion is already underway or is yet to to come.

  • Mark Strassmann

    Mark Strassmann has been a CBS News correspondent since January 2001 and is based in the Atlanta bureau.