Hawaii volcano eruption: Astonishing pictures as Kilauea volcano gushes lava fountains

Phillip Cunningham
May 24, 2018

Almost 50 structures have been destroyed by lava, including dozens of homes.

Lava erupts and flows from a Kilauea volcano fissure, near to the Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV) plant (TOP R), on Hawaii's Big Island on May 21, 2018 near Pahoa, Hawaii.

This story has been corrected to show officials have finished stabilizing wells at the geothermal energy plant, but some still remain unplugged.

Eruption of lava and ground cracking continues Wednesday in the area of Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens subdivision in Puna.

It's the first serious injury reported since Kilauea began erupting on May 3. The plant harnesses heat and steam from the earth's core to spin turbines to generate power. Earlier this month, officials removed 50,000 gallons (190,000 liters) of the gas from the plant to reduce the chance of explosions.

U.S. Geological Survey scientist Wendy Stovall said Wednesday that lava erupting from a vent closest to Puna Geothermal Venture is shooting higher than lava coming out of other vents.

He says that pattern "is about par for the course" right now.

The methane can seep through cracks several feet away from the lava. The air, especially in the southern part of the island, is increasingly unsafe.

On the volcano's east flank, almost two-dozen fissures are producing 15,000 tons a day of toxic sulfur dioxide, a level "much higher than seen in recent times", Bravender said.

It's just the latest hazard from a weeks-old eruption that has so far generated earthquakes and featured gushing molten rock, giant ash plumes and sulfur dioxide.

Created by chemical reactions as hot lava boils seawater to dryness, the plume is described as "an irritating mixture of hydrochloric acid gas (HCl), steam, and tiny volcanic glass particles".

Underscoring the eruption's dangers, a Hawaii man was hit by a flying piece of lava over the weekend said the molten rock almost sheared his leg in half.

Darryl Clinton, who is from California but has lived in Kapoho for 12 years, told KHON 2 he was on the roof of a nearby home, trying to put out fires caused by volcanic debris, when he felt "the most forceful impact I've ever had on my body in my life".

The Hawaii County Civil Defense agency warned in its latest bulletin that residents downwind of Kilauea should take care to avoid exposure to ash, which can cause eye irritation and breathing difficulties, particularly in people with respiratory problems.

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