Hawaii's Kilauea volcano may erupt explosively

But last week, vents popped open and released lava, gas and steam inside neighborhoods.

In the Leilani Estates subdivision, police went door-to-door Tuesday to roust residents near two new volcanic vents emitting unsafe gases in areas where lava has poured into streets and backyards.

The PGV plant has "increasingly threatened" the eruption of Kilauea volcano, authorities said, and Ige noted that the geothermal energy plant was accelerating its removal of stored flammable gas.

Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes in the world, began erupting on March 10, 2008. These expected eruptions would be strong enough to shoot multi-ton boulders about half a mile, while pebble-size projectiles could be flung a distance of several miles.

The risk will rise as lava drains from the summit crater down the flank of the volcano, and explosions could occur if the lava drops below the groundwater level, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

By last Thursday, the underground flows found their way to the surface in the community of Leilani Estates, opening large cracks in the ground to emit steam, toxic sulphur dioxide and other volcanic gases, and finally fountains of lava, some hundreds of metres high. On May 3, big plumes of smoke and ash emerged from Kilauea and risky lava flows crept toward residential areas on the island's east side.

That explosion killed one person and sent rocks, ash and dust into the air for 17 days.

It would be "very, very hazardous" if a volcanic vent opened under the facility where the fuel is stored, the governor said.

The plant, which is owned by Ormat Technologies of Reno, Nevada, is across the highway from where lava has been erupting.

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Trade winds could weaken Thursday and Friday, meaning the vog that's largely been accumulating over the ocean south of the Big Island could pool over a larger portion of it, creating possible health hazards, the National Weather Service says.

On Wednesday, scientists observed what they believe may signal a new chapter in the latest series of disturbances - the violent explosion from the summit crater of rocky material that apparently fell into the remaining lava lake.

Don Swanson, a geologist with the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, said the magma is likely to drop below the water table around the middle of the month. "We expect that it's quite a rapid process, but we really don't know for certain".

That powerful outburst occurred after rockfalls caused the collapse of the Pu'u 'Ō'ō crater at the summit of Kilauea, which had been puffed up like a soufflé filled with red-hot lava. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which includes the crater and surrounding region, announced Wednesday that it will shut down Friday in anticipation of the possible explosive event.

While the national park has been forced to close intermittently over the last two weeks, much of life on the Big Island remains unaffected by eruptions and lava flows.

Authorities previously ordered almost 2,000 residents to leave the two communities in the mostly rural district of Puna on Hawaii's Big Island last Thursday. Authorities went door-to-door in Lanipuna to get people out of their homes on Tuesday.

In any case, the Hawaii County Civil Defense is reporting that all 1,900 people living in the Leilani Estates and Laipuna Garden areas (both around 25 miles east of the volcano) have been evacuated. The resident and a friend took the suspect to police officers who arrested him.

Some residents have refused to leave because of fears their homes will be looted.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)
 
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