Lava Rises High Into the Sky from the Big Island

  • Lava Rises High Into the Sky from the Big Island

Lava Rises High Into the Sky from the Big Island

As Hawaii's Kīlauea volcano continues to erupt, lava flows have reached the Pacific Ocean, prompting local authorities to issue warnings of a potentially deadly new hazard.

As it hits the water it creates a chemical reaction which makes unsafe gasses and tiny bits of glass.

Authorities on Sunday (Monday NZ Time) warned the public to stay away the cloud that formed by a chemical reaction when lava touched seawater.

That's producing laze, a unsafe mix of lava and haze, which is adding to the ongoing challenges.

Two thousand people have been ordered from their homes due to lava flows and toxic sulfur dioxide gas, levels of which have tripled in the last two days, according to the County of Hawaii Civil Defense. At least 23 fissures from the volcano have opened so far and 40 homes buildings have been burned by the lava.

Kilauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes, began extruding red-hot lava and sulfuric acid fumes through newly opened fissures on the ground along its eastern flank on May 3, marking the latest phase of an eruption cycle that has continued almost nonstop for 35 years.

Hawaii officials warn of danger of ‘laze’ as Kilauea volcano lava reaches Pacific Ocean
Hawaii officials warn of danger of ‘laze’ as Kilauea volcano lava reaches Pacific Ocean

A homeowner on Noni Farms Road who was on a third-floor balcony had his leg shattered from his shin to his foot when hit by lava spatter, said Janet Snyder, a spokesperson for the Office of the Mayor, County of Hawaii. Remarkably, so far, there's only been one serious eruption-related injury.

Officials say the wind carried the ash plume to the southwest, toward Wood Valley, Pahala, Naalehu and Waiohinu. That lava is flowing into the water, leading to a unsafe concoction called laze.

The Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV) plant, which provides about 25 percent of power on the Big Island, has been closed since shortly after the eruptions began May 3 and some 60,000 gallons (227,124 liters) of flammable pentane used in the plant's turbines have already been relocated. "The lava that poured into the ground never reappeared at the surface", she said. Some 2,000 people have evacuated their homes, including 300 who were staying in shelters. Having cooled with age, the lava emerged viscous and sticky-more sluggish than fresh, fast-flowing lava.

Aside from the more explosive activity at Kilauea's Halema'uma'u summit crater, most of the eruption's danger comes from the lava-effusing fissures that have opened up across the East Rift Zone (ERZ). Brantley said it will likely not be known if the eruptions have produced more "ballistic blocks" until it is safe for scientists to return to the summit. It has been gushing lava high into the sky and sending a river of molten rock toward the ocean at about 275 metres per hour.

"We've seen Phase 1".

Kīlauea-which rises 4,190 feet above Hawaii's Big Island, making up around 14 percent of its total area-is one of the world's most active volcanoes.