Kilauea volcano eruption in Hawaii rains down drama, destruction

Kilauea Volcano

Millions of lives have been put at risk since May 3 after the Kilauea volcano's first eruptions saw fissures spewing lava which had been sitting in the volcano for up to 60 years.

The building was owned by the state of Hawaii.

At least 44 homes and other structures have been destroyed in the Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens area of the Puna district, and a man was seriously injured on Saturday (May 19) when a plate-sized chunk of molten rock shot out of a fissure and struck him on the leg. That lava is now traveling underground. within the East Rift Zone in Leilani Estates.

More than 10,000 residents have been evacuated since the volcanic activity began, due to Kilauea opening up 22 fissures that have leaked slow-moving lava and unsafe sulphur dioxide. The plant harnesses heat and steam from the earth's core to spin turbines to generate power. Within a week, some 60,000 gallons of the highly flammable chemical pentane, which was stored at the plant, were moved from harm's way.

Earlier on Tuesday morning, an ash cloud rose to 8,000 feet and drifted southwest from the volcano, according to USGS. Crews worked into the night to cap the 11th and final well at the Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV) plant, which provides about 25 percent of the Big Island's power.

U.S. Geological Survey geophysicist Mike Poland says there are near continuous low-level ash emissions from the summit.

Tourists take photos of steam rising from the entry point where lava from the Kilauea volcano hits the Pacific Ocean.

That prompted safety warnings about toxic gas on the Big Island's southern coastline. Lava from the Kilauea volcano has been burning through plants and shrubs, producing methane.

For five days, they had taken turns hosing down homes whenever molten rocks - flung from Fissure 17 - landed on them. It's been generating plumes of lava haze or "laze" as it interacts with seawater. Although potentially fatal if inhaled, Stovall said the danger was confined to the immediate vicinity of laze plumes themselves.

Stovall said lava spatter from one of the vents was forming a wall that was helping protect a nearby geothermal plant.

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