Kilauea volcano eruption in Hawaii rains down drama, destruction

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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.

US Geological Survey scientist Jim Kauahikaua said it was just the second time he'd ever seen blue flames during an eruption.

Authorities also said that emissions of sulfur dioxide gas, harmful if inhaled, remained at high levels from newly opened lava-spewing fissures in the ground running through populated areas on the eastern flank of the volcano.

On the heels of toxic gas clouds, which formed over the weekend as lava spilled into the ocean, the blue flames raise ideas of a Hawaii on the verge of an apocalypse. And once ignited, it produces a blue flame, the USGS said. The tiny blue blazes are a result of buried vegetation catching fire and filling cracks in the road with ignitable methane.

Since the start of the eruption, lava flows have forced evacuations, closed a geothermal plant that supplies 25 percent of the island's power and created a noxious plume of "laze" when it began flowing into the ocean.

It then flows beneath the surface before bursting up when it finds an outlet, such as cracks in the ground caused by the recent seismic activity.

The observatory said in a release that the volcano's fissures were actively expelling lava during the period in which the time-lapse footage was shot. Others say that though geothermal energy is renewable, the plant poses risks to the health of residents and the environment.

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So far, more than 2,000 people have been evacuated from the area as almost two dozen fissures opened in the ground and lava slowly moved toward the sea.

The preparations came as a third lava flow from Kilauea streamed into the ocean on Thursday.

Officials say almost 50 structures, including dozens of houses, have been destroyed since fissures began opening up in backyards on May 3.

The gas can cause underground explosions that can toss hot lava several feet in the air.

Officials shut down Puna Geothermal shortly after the current eruption began. One person suffered a leg injury after being struck by a "lava bomb".

No major injuries have been reported from lava haze.

"They can basically evacuate a whole subdivision of 500 people within two hours", Snyder said. Officials are concerned that "laze", a unsafe product produced when hot lava hits cool ocean water, will affect residents.

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