Faster-moving Hawaii lava gushes into the sea, spews new danger


Associated Press

PAHOA, Hawaii

A volcano that is oozing, spewing and exploding on Hawaii’s Big Island has gotten more hazardous in recent days, with rivers of molten rock pouring into the ocean Sunday and flying lava causing the first major injury.

Kilauea volcano began erupting more than two weeks ago and has burned dozens of homes, forced thousands of people to flee and shot up plumes of steam from its summit that led officials to distribute face masks to protect against ash particles.

Lava flows have picked up speed in past days, spattering molten rock that hit a man in the leg.

He was outside his home Saturday in the remote, rural region affected by the volcano when the lava “hit him on the shin, and shattered everything from there down on his leg,” Janet Snyder, Hawaii County mayor’s spokeswoman, told the Hawaii News Now TV station.

Lava that’s flying through the air from cracks in the Earth can weigh as much as a refrigerator and even small pieces can be deadly, officials said.

The injury came the same day that lava began streaming across a highway and flowing into the ocean. The phenomenon sends hydrochloric acid and steam with fine glass particles into the air and can lead to lung damage and eye and skin irritation, another danger for residents as the plume can shift with the wind, Hawaii County Civil Defense said. The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory says sulfur dioxide emissions also have tripled.

The highway has shut down in some spots, and residents in the area have been evacuated.

Joseph Kekedi, an orchid grower who lives and works about 3 miles from where lava is pouring into the sea, said luckily the flow didn’t head his way. At one point, it was about a mile upslope from his property in the coastal community of Kapoho.

He said residents can’t do much but stay informed and be ready to get out of the way.

“Here’s nature reminding us again who’s boss,” Kekedi said.

He is hosting a 90-year-old who evacuated from the Leilani Estates neighborhood, where lava started spewing May 3. He also was storing belongings for other friends who had to leave their homes.

Kekedi said most of his neighbors are optimistic. He has friends who lost houses when lava smothered the town of Kalapana in the 1990s but they built again, found a good life and “life went on.”

Don't Miss a Story

Sign up for our newsletter to receive daily news directly in your inbox.