The US Geological Survey says the massive eruption took place near the volcano's summit at 4:17 AM Thursday local time.
"Geologists say the quakes are being caused by the ongoing deflation at the summit and as lava levels continue to decline".
Such an eruption could not only shroud large areas of the Big Island in volcanic ash and smog, but also other Hawaiian islands and potentially distant areas if the plume reaches up into the stratosphere and ash is carried by winds. Whereas St. Helens sits along the geologically active boundary of the Pacific Plate, Kilauea and the other Hawaiian volcanoes are powered by a hot spot deep within the Earth's mantle.
The global airports in Hilo and Kona are open, officials said.
Fissure No. 17 northeast of Lanipuna Gardens was active but with less lava being added to the flow, said Steve Brantley, deputy scientist-in-charge at Hawaii Volcano Observatory.
Officials on Hawaii's Big Island will be handing out free masks to protect people from breathing volcanic ash.
But Hughes, a 45-year resident of the village of some 2,500 people, suspects he'll soon hear from adventurers and photographers who want to see the eruption up close.
The masks will be handed out from 1 p.m.to 7 p.m. Officials warn they won't protect against gases and vapors.
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The bill also creates a Volcano Watch Office that will operate 24-hours a day, seven days a week, to provide continuous situational awareness of all active volcanoes in the USA and its territories, such as the ongoing eruption of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawai'i. Mr Poland said the explosion probably only lasted a few minutes.
About two hours later, Mr Poland said the webcam view showed a dusty plume rising from the summit.
Hawaii's Civil Defence Agency warned the ash plume would likely "cover the surrounding area" and advised the island's residents to "shelter in place".
"This has relieved pressure temporarily", U.S. Geological Survey geologist Michelle Coombs told a news conference in Hilo. Additional ash emissions are expected as the summit area remains unsettled.
It comes after more than a dozen fissures recently opened miles to the east of the crater and spewed lava into neighbourhoods.
Steam and gas rise from Kilauea's summit crater in Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii, Wednesday.
"These can be quite impressive, and you certainly don't want to be in the vicinity of these explosions, but they don't have the force to sustain huge eruptions".
"Volcanic eruptions, like the one in Hawai'i and the one earlier this month at Cleveland Volcano in Alaska, are vivid reminders of why it is so critical to have continuous and reliable monitoring systems", Sen.