Three lava flows reach coast as volcanic eruption batters Hawaii

26 May, 2018, 07:37 | Author: Bert Pena
  • Workers in Hawaii plugging energy wells as lava flows nearby

Lava from Hawaii's erupting Kilauea volcano is exploding as it pours into the ocean, shooting rock fragments that are a danger to boaters.

Early Wednesday morning, officials from the U.S. Geological Survey spotted blue flames rising from cracks in a country road in Leilani Estates, near where lava is spewing from the KÄ«lauea volcano's lower east rift zone.

Now another wonder has emerged from the ground: blue flames created by burning methane escaping through pavement cracks.

Big Island residents have endured thousands of earthquakes, relentless lava flow and risky levels of sulfur dioxide since the Kilauea volcano erupted earlier this month.

That information includes detecting active fissures and fires, the height and composition of volcanic plumes, ground "deformation" caused by the movement of magma and images of ash and sulfur dioxide plumes, NASA said in their release.

The eruption has destroyed 50 buildings, including about two dozen homes.

Wendy Stovall, a USGS scientist, said that lava breaks apart and sends fragments flying into the air when it hits the sea and cools.

Laze itself is not enough to cause serious burns, Babb said, unless someone is right on top of where lava enters the ocean.

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"I think the biggest worry for us is based on the geologic history of this volcano - is that the current fissure activity could actually become a bit larger", said geologist Steve Brantley from the U.S. Geological Survey.

To date, at least 23 fissures have formed along a northeast-southwest line in the rift zone, most in the Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens neighborhoods.

Residents "should be prepared to leave the area with little notice due to gas or lava inundation", Hawaii County's civil defense agency said.

Kauahikaua said this is the second time he has seen the blue flames.

Hinkle said she's grateful her home has been spared from the lava, but the toxic gas is unbearable. Historic reports and geologic remnants suggest the locals were overwhelmed by a pyroclastic blast - a surging mass of gas and volcanic rock.

Earlier this month officials removed a flammable gas called pentane from the plant to reduce the chance of explosions.

The company said it would resume calling on Hilo, a town on the eastern side of the island closer to the lava, when conditions allow. The plant produces electricity by bringing steam up from underground wells and funneling it to a turbine generator.

Year to date, visitation is up 25 percent compared with last year on the island, though there have been cancellations because of the eruption, he said.

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