Scientists: Explosive eruption risk rises for Hawaii volcano

PAHOA, Hawaii (AP) — Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could soon send boulders and ash shooting out of its summit crater in the kind of explosive eruption last displayed nearly a century ago.

Scientists said Wednesday the risks of an explosive summit eruption will rise in coming weeks as magma drains down the flank of the volcano toward the area lava started erupting from fissures in a residential neighborhood last week.

A summit explosion could also release ash, steam and sulfur dioxide gas.

Kilauea has destroyed 36 structures – including 26 homes – since it began releasing lava from vents about 25 miles east of the summit crater. There are now 15 of the vents spread through the Leilani Estates and neighboring Lanipuna Gardens neighborhoods.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige said a geothermal energy plant near the lava outbreak was accelerating its removal of stored flammable gas as a precaution.

The Puna Geothermal Venture plant has about 50,000 gallons of pentane. Ige, a Democrat, expected it be removed by the end of today.

It would be "very, very hazardous" if a volcanic vent opened under the facility where the fuel is stored, the governor said.

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

In coming weeks, the summit crater could eject blocks up to 2 yards in diameter a little less than a mile away, the United States Geological Survey said. It could also send pebbles shooting into the air several miles away, the agency said. Distant communities such Hilo, about 30 miles away, could get a dusting of ash.

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