Danger Continues to Grow for Hawaii Residents with Kilauea Volcano

Danger Continues to Grow for Hawaii Residents with Kilauea Volcano

Almost 20 volcanic fissures have opened and are spewing lava and poisonous gas across the big island Tuesday morning.

Lava oozing out of fissures have hit the island's lower Puna area especially hard, tearing through farmland some 25 miles (40 km) east of the volcano's smoking summit, destroying 37 homes and other structures and posing a risk of blocking one of the last exit routes, state Highway 132.

However, Hawaiian volcanoes produce "curtains of fire" as lava fountains erupt along a portion of a fissure.

"There's a lot of worst-case scenarios and roads getting blocked is one of them", Jeff Hickman, spokesman for the Hawaii National Guard, told Reuters.

Overall, almost 2,000 people have been told to evacuate since May 3 and lava has destroyed more than two dozen homes.

Two more fissures opened in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 19. A similar seismic event in 1955 lasted 88 days, he said.

Unsafe levels of sulfur dioxide gas and other emissions prompted state health officials to urge residents to stay indoors or leave the eastern end of Hawaii's Big Island, which has been ravaged by volcanic activity since May 3. The County of Hawaii Civil Defense advised residents to leave the area to minimize exposure to the toxic gas hazard and to get medical attention if severely affected.

While residents deal with noxious gas and lava on the ground, the US Geological Survey is concerned that pent-up steam could cause a violent explosive eruption at the volcano crater, launching a 6100m plume that could spread debris over 19km.

Ashfall, hazardous air reported

The lava lake in the crater has been dropping since May 2, which increases the chances for a phreatic explosion.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which has a team in place on the Big Island, said it would assist the state with at least 75 percent of emergency measures and replacing damaged infrastructure.

The Big Island tourism board estimates $5 million worth of cancellations from May through July.

Scorching lava has already swallowed dozens of homes and vehicles.

Most of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park remains closed since Friday, due to several possible threats including a possible steam explosion at Kilauea.

The industry grew the fastest on Big Island previous year compared with other islands in the archipelago, pulling in about US$2.5 billion in visitor spending.

This is the "first leak we're seeing out of the bucket", Birch said.

More news: NASA has fresh hope of finding signs of alien life

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