A red alert was triggered on Tuesday, signalling an imminent eruption and possible interference with flight paths as ash spewed as far away as Pahala, 18 miles from the summit of .

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) chemist David Damby warned large emissions could yet cause power lines to fail.

People who breathed in the ash could experience “choking” and “inability to breathe”, warned Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency.

Shifting winds were also poised to make the huge plumes of smoke clouds even more concentrated,

Hawaii’s ash cloud in PICTURES

Kilauea has been erupting for 12 days now but the newest eruptions are the first time a red alert has been announced.

The photos below show ominous thick clouds of volcano gases swelling in size as they carried by the wind away from the volcano’s Halemaumau crater.

Astonishingly, many people were captured taking photos of the awesome activity, with some golf-players continuing to swing puts despite the prevalence of noxious gases.

The thick ash plumes are formed of ash and volcanic smog, otherwise known as vog, and are an extra threat on top of the lava flow residents are already battling on Big Island.

Around 2,000 residents have already been evacuated from the south-east end where Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens are situated.

But if the volcanic eruptions intensify, as scientists believe they might, then large-scale evacuations could be ordered.

USGS said in a statement: “Ash emission from the Kilauea summit vent will likely be variable with periods of increased and decreased intensity depending on the occurrence of rockfalls into the vent and other changes within the vent.

At any time, activity may become more explosive, increasing the intensity of ash production and producing ballistic projectiles near the vent.”

The US scientific body said a recent lowering of the lava lake at the volcano’s crater “has raised the potential for explosive eruptions” in the coming weeks.

As the lake lowers, the groundwater meshes with hot rock leading to a pent-up steam that eventually explodes.

The ongoing activity has abruptly halted Big island’s tourism, with summer hotel bookings dropping by half compared with last year.

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