Fri, May 11, 2018 - Page 6 News List

USGS says Hawaii volcano could shoot boulders and rocks

AP, PAHOA, Hawaii

Geologists on Wednesday warned that Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano could erupt explosively and send boulders, rocks and ash into the air around its summit in the coming weeks.

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 US Geological Survey (USGS) said.

There is also potential for ash, steam and sulfur dioxide emissions.

Kilauea is one of the world’s most active volcanoes.

It has destroyed 36 structures since it began releasing lava from fissures that opened in a Big Island neighborhood about 40km east of the summit crater. There are now 15 of the vents spread through Leilani Estates and neighboring Lanipuna Gardens.

In the weeks ahead, the volcano could eject blocks up to 1.8m in diameter a little less than 1.6km away, the USGS said, adding that it might also send pebbles shooting into the air several kilometers away.

The receding lava lake resembles conditions seen before a major summit eruption in 1924, USGS Hawaiian Volcanoes Observatory scientist-in-charge Tina Neal said.

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

No one lives in the immediate area of the summit crater. However, people have continued to visit Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, which includes the crater and surrounding region.

The park would be evacuated before conditions develop for an explosive eruption at the summit, spokeswoman Jessica Ferracane said.

Separately, Hawaii Governor David Ige said a geothermal energy plant near the lava outbreak was accelerating its removal of stored flammable gas.

Puna Geothermal Venture has about 189,270 liters of pentane on site, but he expected it would all be removed by the end of yesterday.

It would be “very, very hazardous” if a volcanic vent were to open under the facility where the fuel is stored, Ige said.

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

Authorities had ordered nearly 2,000 residents to leave the neighborhoods in and around the vents in the mostly rural district of Puna.

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