GALLERY | Dangerous 'laze' forms as Hawaii volcano lava reaches ocean

U.S. Geological Survey shows lava flowing from fissures near Pahoa Hawaii. Kilauea volcano began erupting more than two weeks ago and has burned dozens of homes forced people to flee and shot up plumes

Lava destroyed a building near the plant late Monday, bringing the total number of structures overtaken in the past several weeks to almost 50, including dozens of homes. The tiny blue blazes are a result of buried vegetation catching fire and filling cracks in the road with ignitable methane.

Production wells at a geothermal plant under threat by lava flowing from Hawaii's Kilauea volcano have been plugged to prevent toxic gases from seeping out, authorities said.

"It's very dramatic. It's very eerie", Jim Kauahikaua, a U.S. Geological Survey scientist, told reporters.

Scientists in Hawaii have captured rare images of blue flames burning from cracks in the pavement as the Kilauea volcano gushes fountains of lava in the background, offering insight into a new dimension in the volcano's weeks-long eruption.

The possibility of an air evacuation is emerging as a real possibility because scientists know that lava has been passing beneath Highway 130 along the East Rift Zone and surfacing in areas in and around Leilani Estates since the eruption began on May 3. "The lava also flowed into the ocean during the period of the video".

The Puna Geothermal Venture plant.

Relentless lava flow has reached the plant, which produces electricity by bringing steam up from underground wells and funneling it to a turbine generator.

An aerial view of a massive surface flow entering the sea at Malama Flats Hawai'i. Image EPA  Bruce Omori  Paradise Helicopters
An aerial view of a massive surface flow entering the sea at Malama Flats Hawai’i. Image EPA Bruce Omori Paradise Helicopters

Ross Birch, Hawaii Island Visitor Bureau director, said cruise ships will return to Kona and Hilo in the next few weeks after canceling stops because of the volcano.

Officials have also warned residents tobeware of "laze", or lava haze, a toxic gas containing tiny shards of glass which is produced when lava flows collide with the sea.

Hawaii Civil Defense Agency Administrator Talmadge Magno said Tuesday the cracks in Highway 130 that closed the route for a time earlier this month have not been widening. In March 1990, an 80-foot pile of lava buried a church, a store and 100 homes.

Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reports eruption activity continues in the Lower East Rift Zone.

"It hit him on the shin and shattered everything there down on his leg", County of Hawaii government spokeswoman Janet Snyder said.

The sheer force of the lava bomb was what Darryl Clinton remembered feeling first, more powerful than any waves he had ever encountered in the ocean surrounding Hawaii. It has since opened more than 20 vents releasing lava, sulfur dioxide and steam.

A U.S. National Guard soldier takes photos as lava erupts and flows from a Kilauea fissure in Leilani Estates on Wednesday.

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