Fast-moving lava sparks immediate evacuations in Hawaii

Lava advancing west from fissure 7 on Leilani Avenue May 27.

HAWAII — A fast-moving lava flow from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano forced more residents out of their homes and in search of shelter from other threatening forms of volcanic activity.

Hawaii County Civil Defense on Sunday issued an emergency alert calling for immediate evacuations of sections of the Leilani Estates community.

The agency said the evacuations were due to activity from fissure 7, one of 24 cracks in the ground that have opened in the island’s East Rift Zone since the start of the month. The fissure produced a large spatter rampart more than 100 feet tall from fountains reaching 150 to 200 feet, the US Geological Survey said Sunday.

Lava continued to creep across a road in Leilani Estates on Monday at a rate of 13 feet per hour, USGS Volcanoes said. The agency shared pictures of the steaming black piles, noting that methane bursts were audible in the surrounding woods.

At least 10 homes were destroyed Sunday due to volcano activity, said Talmadge Magno, Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator. About 41 homes and 82 structures in total have been destroyed, Magno said in a Monday press conference. More than 240 people are currently in a shelter, according to reports.

Volcanic gas and ashfall

Conditions were not much better in neighboring Kau district.

Volcanic gas emissions are still high, the USGS said. As trade winds diminish, the area affected by vog — or volcanic smog — could expand, the agency said. Vog is a haze created when sulfur dioxide gas and other volcanic pollutants settle with moisture and dust. It can cause respiratory illness.

A decrease in trade winds could also see ashfall in communities around the Kilauea volcano’s summit, with ash continuing to erupt from a crater there, the USGS said.

Light winds are expected to push volcanic gases westward, increasing the presence of ash and sulfur dioxide downwind of the Kilauea summit, the National Weather Service said on Monday.

Meanwhile, ash explosions continue. One at the Halemaumau Crater pushed an ash cloud 13,000 feet into the air early Monday morning, according to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory report.

Hawaii County Civil Defense urged residents to to limit exposure to ash and volcanic gases “by staying indoors or leaving the area.”

Geothermal plant

About 2,200 acres has been covered in lava since the Kilauea volcano eruptions began May 3, Magno said.

Hawaiii County Civil Defense said lava had reached the Puna Geothermal Venture Plant, covering a well.

“Lava flow from fissures 7 and 21 crossed into PGV property overnight and has now covered one well that was successfully plugged. That well, along with a second well 100 feet away, are stable and secured, and are being monitored. Also due to preventative measures, neither well is expected to release any hydrogen sulfide,” it said.