Kilauea volcano: worse to come for Hawaii residents

Barack Obama

The steady lowering of the lava lake has raised the potential for explosive eruptions in the coming weeks. This will be especially true if the surface of the magma column drops beneath the ground water table under the caldera floor, which would allow water to seep into the hot conduit, and likely trigger violent steam-driven (phreatic) explosions, perhaps similar to those observed in 1924, when violent phreatic activity destroyed the pre-1924 lava lake and excavated the Halema'uma'u crater as it was known after 1924. Pebble-sized rocks could also be thrown several miles. At least 36 structures - including 26 residences - have been destroyed since then.

Local residents have long voiced concern about the Puna Geothermal Venture, which state senator Russell Ruderman said was constructed more than 25 years ago in a recognized high-risk zone for lava flow, and despite the objections of local residents.

Gas emitted during steam-drive explosions will be mainly steam, but will include some sulfur dioxide as well. He was asleep on the couch in his home when a fissure opened up 2,000 feet (610 meters) away, spewing out lava and gas.

Hawaii's Kilauea volcano continues to erupt as it displaces residents and damages an area equivalent to 75 football fields, with no end in sight yet.

Residents of Lanipuna Gardens in the southeast of Hawaii's Big Island were told to head for the coast as they were in immediate danger from clouds of sulfur dioxide gas and fountains of lava.

By 7:00 p.m., the vents were "paused but continue to release hazardous gases", the agency said.

Big Island residents living near Kilauea's eruption also need to be wary of acid rain.

After a spokesperson for the county of Hawaii's Mayor, last week, said the surrounding area is so toxic [because of sulfur dioxide gas] that even first responders are finding it hard to move without protective equipment. But some ignored the order and stayed to watch over their property.

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On Wednesday, a 15th vent formed - this one in the Lanipuna subdivision, the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency says.

Lava seen from a new fissure caused by the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii.

The plant is across the highway from where lava has been erupting in the Leilani Estates residential neighbourhood.

"I was going to raise my daughters here, but it doesn't look like it was going to turn out to be the scenario we hoped", Kealoha said.

No access is allowed at this time for residents of Lanipuna Gardens due to risky volcanic gases.

Fourteen vents have opened since the current lava breakout began.

There is no indication when the eruption might stop, or how far the lava might spread. If the situation at the summit worsens, the National Park Service said it would take action to evacuate people and close Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to visitors. "I walked out onto my deck and I heard this sound, it sounded like whoosh, whoosh", said Northway. But the flow of lava is not constant.

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