Hawaii volcano: Rush to move tens of thousands of gallons of flammable chemicals from lava path

The chemicals could cause an explosion with a one mile blast radius, the governor says

Clark Mindock
New York
Thursday 10 May 2018 19:28
Lava splits and Bubbles inside Hawaii Volcano after mass eruptions

Officials in Hawaii are rushing to move tens of thousands of gallons of highly flammable chemicals out of the path of the lava flows there, and residents have been warned that mass evacuations may be necessary if the Kilauea volcano eruptions become more violent.

The chemicals evacuation was started after a new fissure in the volcano opened Wednesday about a half a mile from a geothermal power plant. In response to that development, Hawaii Governor David Ige created an emergency task force.

The fluid, Mr Ige estimated, would create a blast radius of up to one mile if it ignites.

“As more fissures open and toxic gas exposure increases, the potential of a larger scale evacuation increases,” Mr Ige said in a tweet Wednesday evening, referring to a residential area near the threatened Puna Geothermal Venture plant.

That residential area is on Hawaii’s big island, where 15 volcanic fissures have so far destroyed 36 buildings, and forced the evacuation of about 2,000 residents.

“A mass evacuation of the lower Puna District would be beyond current county and state capabilities, and would quickly overwhelm our collective resources,” Mr Ige, who has also requested federal funds to help with volcano response, said in a separate tweet.

Geologists have warned that steam-driven explosive eruptions could hurl “ballistic blocks” that weigh several tons as far as a half a mile. The eruptions could send dust and ash as far as 25 miles away.

Scientists also say that there remains the potential for further eruptions, as there is still magma under the ground that is draining out of the volcano’s laws pool and flowing underground.

“There’s still quite a fair bit of magma under the ground that’s available to erupt,” Tina Neal, the scientist in charge of the United States Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, said during a conference call with reporters.

Kilauea has been erupting nearly constantly for 35 years. The incidents are generally not violent eruptions, and lava generally just oozes out from fissures and into the ocean.

Reuters contributed to this report

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