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Hawaii volcano lava creeps onto geothermal power plant

Molten lava from the erupting Kilauea Volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island crept onto a geothermal power plant on Monday, as workers rushed to shut down the facility to prevent the uncontrollable release of toxic gases.

It is the latest danger from Mount Kilauea’s eruption, which geologists say is among the worst events in a century from one of the world’s most active volcanoes. 

Crews worked into the night to cap the 11th and final well at the Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV) plant, which provides about 25 percent of the Big Island’s power. 

Governor David Ige revealed on Tuesday morning that the closest lava front was about 100 yards from the plant as officials feared it could trigger the release of deadly hydrogen sulfate gas. 

An aerial view of a massive surface flow entering the sea at Malama Flats, leaving a stretch of Highway 137 cutoff at both ends in Pahoa, Hawaii, on May 22

An aerial view of lava flowing into the sea Malama Flats in Pahoa, Hawaii on May 22 as a stretch of Highway 137 is cutoff in both directions 

An aerial view of lava flowing into the sea Malama Flats in Pahoa, Hawaii on May 22 as a stretch of Highway 137 is cutoff in both directions 

A home bursting into flames as it is consumed by lava in Pahoa, Hawaii on May 22 as lava flows down a street 

A home bursting into flames as it is consumed by lava in Pahoa, Hawaii on May 22 as lava flows down a street 

An aerial view of fissure eruptions near the Puna Geothermal Venture facility, and homes in the Lanipuna Gardens and Leilani Estates subdivisions in Pahoa, Hawaii on May 22 

An aerial view of fissure eruptions near the Puna Geothermal Venture facility, and homes in the Lanipuna Gardens and Leilani Estates subdivisions in Pahoa, Hawaii on May 22 

As fissures erupt it  is producing flows that stretch to the sea, consuming everything in its path in Pahoa, Hawaii on May 22

As fissures erupt it  is producing flows that stretch to the sea, consuming everything in its path in Pahoa, Hawaii on May 22

An aerial view of a Puna Geothermal Venture warehouse structure being consumed by flows from a reactivated fissure 6 in Pahoa, Hawaii on May 22

An aerial view of a Puna Geothermal Venture warehouse structure being consumed by flows from a reactivated fissure 6 in Pahoa, Hawaii on May 22

An aerial view of a massive river of lava cutting a swath through a forest and highway as it flows into the sea at Malama Flats in Pahoa, Hawaii, on May 22

An aerial view of a massive river of lava cutting a swath through a forest and highway as it flows into the sea at Malama Flats in Pahoa, Hawaii, on May 22

Molten lava from the erupting Kilauea Volcano on Hawaii's Big Island crept onto a geothermal power plant (pictured) on Monday, as workers rushed to shut down the facility to prevent the uncontrollable release of toxic gases

Molten lava from the erupting Kilauea Volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island crept onto a geothermal power plant (pictured) on Monday, as workers rushed to shut down the facility to prevent the uncontrollable release of toxic gases

Workers tried to shut down the plant's three wells, which at 6,000 feet to 8,000 feet underground tap into extremely hot water and steam used to run turbines and produce electricity 

Workers tried to shut down the plant’s three wells, which at 6,000 feet to 8,000 feet underground tap into extremely hot water and steam used to run turbines and produce electricity 

‘It’s not easy to predict where it’s going to go, and when it’s going to get there,’ Tom Travis, of Hawaii Emergency Management, told CBS News. 

Flammable liquids have already been removed and the wells have been filled with cold water, but won’t be plugged until Tuesday. A worst-case scenario could be catastrophic if lava hits one of the wells. 

‘There’s a steam release, many chemicals, but primarily hydrogen sulfate, a very deadly gas,’ Travis said. 

The PGV plant has been closed since shortly after the eruptions began on May 3 and some 60,000 gallons of the flammable chemical pentane used in the plant’s turbines have already been relocated.

 The PGV plant has been closed since shortly after the eruptions began on May 3 and some 60,000 gallons of the flammable chemical pentane used in the plant's turbines have already been relocated

 The PGV plant has been closed since shortly after the eruptions began on May 3 and some 60,000 gallons of the flammable chemical pentane used in the plant’s turbines have already been relocated

Crews worked into the night to cap the 11th and final well at the Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV) plant, which provides about 25 percent of the Big Island's power

Crews worked into the night to cap the 11th and final well at the Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV) plant, which provides about 25 percent of the Big Island’s power

Steam and volcanic gases rise as lava enters the Pacific Ocean, after flowing to the water from a Kilauea volcano fissure 

Steam and volcanic gases rise as lava enters the Pacific Ocean, after flowing to the water from a Kilauea volcano fissure 

PAHOA, HI - MAY 22:  People ride a tour boat to view Kilauea volcano lava entering the Pacific Ocean at dawn, as a steam plume rises, on Hawaii's Big Island on Monday

PAHOA, HI – MAY 22: People ride a tour boat to view Kilauea volcano lava entering the Pacific Ocean at dawn, as a steam plume rises, on Hawaii’s Big Island on Monday

Noxious clouds of acid fumes, steam, and fine glass-like particles billowed into the sky as lava poured into the ocean 

Noxious clouds of acid fumes, steam, and fine glass-like particles billowed into the sky as lava poured into the ocean 

The state said last week it was pumping cold water into the wells and would cap them with iron plugs. 

Two separate lava glows are currently threatening the site. One of the flows inched onto the property before stalling on Monday while another reactivated, according to Hawaii News Now.  

Officials have said that evacuations may be necessary if the hydrogen sulfide is released.     

3 miles to the east of the plant on the coast, noxious clouds of acid fumes, steam and fine glass-like particles billowed into the sky as lava poured into the ocean from two flows cutting across Highway 137, one of the main exit routes from the eruption zone. 

This has raised concerns over another threat, a cloud of toxic gas known as laze.  

Laze – a mash-up of lava and haze – forms when molten, 2,000-degree F magma, hits the cool Pacific waters.

It is potentially deadly if inhaled and killed two people when a lava flow reached the coast in 2000.

This has raised concerns over another threat, a cloud of toxic gas known as laze. Laze - a mash-up of lava and haze - forms when molten, 2,000-degree F magma, hits the cool Pacific waters

This has raised concerns over another threat, a cloud of toxic gas known as laze. Laze – a mash-up of lava and haze – forms when molten, 2,000-degree F magma, hits the cool Pacific waters

The temperature change causes a chemical reaction resulting in small explosions that send hydrochloric acid and tiny particles of volcanic glass into the air

The temperature change causes a chemical reaction resulting in small explosions that send hydrochloric acid and tiny particles of volcanic glass into the air

Lava from a Kilauea volcano fissure flows past downed trees towards the Pacific Ocean, on Hawaii's Big Island on Monday 

Lava from a Kilauea volcano fissure flows past downed trees towards the Pacific Ocean, on Hawaii’s Big Island on Monday 

Steam plumes rise as lava enters the Pacific Ocean, after flowing to the water from a Kilauea volcano fissure

Steam plumes rise as lava enters the Pacific Ocean, after flowing to the water from a Kilauea volcano fissure

Kilauea volcano began erupting more than two weeks ago sending lava flows tearing through dozens of structures and homes

Kilauea volcano began erupting more than two weeks ago sending lava flows tearing through dozens of structures and homes

The temperature change causes a chemical reaction resulting in small explosions that send hydrochloric acid and tiny particles of volcanic glass into the air. 

‘If one were to be near the laze, because of the various acids, it would be corrosive to the eyes, the nose and respiratory tract, and the skin,’ said Dr Alvin Bronstein from the Hawaii State Department of Health. 

Photographs show the the noxious gas clouds billowing off of Hawaii’s coast as residents are warned of the acid’s corrosive abilities that can cause irritation of the eyes, skin and lungs.

Geologists say the laze is about as corrosive as diluted battery acid, and that once formed it can be blown long distances by the wind.

‘If you’re feeling stinging on your skin, go inside,’ advised US Geological Survey scientist Wendy Stovall. 

Photographs show the the noxious gas clouds billowing off of Hawaii's coast as residents are warned of the acid's corrosive abilities that can cause irritation of the eyes, skin and lungs 

Photographs show the the noxious gas clouds billowing off of Hawaii’s coast as residents are warned of the acid’s corrosive abilities that can cause irritation of the eyes, skin and lungs 

Dramatic photographs capture the billowing clouds created as a wall of 2,000-degree material continues to push into the sea

Dramatic photographs capture the billowing clouds created as a wall of 2,000-degree material continues to push into the sea

Emergency responders on the Big Island have begun to hand out face masks to protect residents from potentially toxic fumes

Emergency responders on the Big Island have begun to hand out face masks to protect residents from potentially toxic fumes

The Coast Guard has also warned of the threat the clouds pose to mariners. 

‘All waterway users should be aware of the hazardous conditions associated with such an event. Getting too close to the lava can result in serious injury or death,’ Lt. Cmdr. John Bannon of the US Coast Guard in Honolulu said in a statement. 

So far the laze has traveled an estimated 15 miles west of where the lava gushed into the ocean on the Big Island’s southern coast.

Another hazard was the potential for methane gas explosions as searing lava neared pockets of rotting vegetation, igniting traces of the flammable gas given off by the decay. 

A man wearing shorts, T-shirt and flip-flops takes a picture of a sea of lava on Sunday that has consumed an entire valley

A man wearing shorts, T-shirt and flip-flops takes a picture of a sea of lava on Sunday that has consumed an entire valley

Lieutenant Colonel Charles Anthony of the Hawaii National Guard measures sulfur dioxide gas levels at a lava flow on Highway 137 southeast of Pahoa on Sunday during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano

Lieutenant Colonel Charles Anthony of the Hawaii National Guard measures sulfur dioxide gas levels at a lava flow on Highway 137 southeast of Pahoa on Sunday during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano

‘These are quite a big hazard in vegetative areas and the explosions can occur well away from the lava flow itself,’ said USGS geologist Janet Babb.

Geologists say Kilauea’s eruption, which has already produced around two dozen lava-spewing fissures, has now entered a more violent phase, in which larger volumes of molten rock are oozing from the ground and traveling farther than before.  

Over the weekend, the first major injury occurred when spattering molten rock shot out of a fissure and hit a man in the leg, shattering it. 

At least 44 homes and other structures have been destroyed in the Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens area of the Puna district and more than 2,000 people have evacuated their homes. 

The area affected by lava and ash is small compared with the Big Island, which is about 4,000 square miles. The volcano has spared most of the island and the rest of the Hawaiian chain.

Officials reminded tourists that flights have not been affected, even on the Big Island. 

There, travelers are free to do most of the usual sightseeing activities that aren’t associated with the erupting volcano.

Lava flows have picked up speed in recent days, spattering molten rock that hit a man in the leg, the first major injury to occur

Lava flows have picked up speed in recent days, spattering molten rock that hit a man in the leg, the first major injury to occur

Brittany Kimball watches as lava erupts from a fissure near Pahoa, Hawaii on Saturday. Officials have warned that lava flying through the air from cracks in the Earth can weigh as much as a refrigerator and even small pieces can be deadly

Brittany Kimball watches as lava erupts from a fissure near Pahoa, Hawaii on Saturday. Officials have warned that lava flying through the air from cracks in the Earth can weigh as much as a refrigerator and even small pieces can be deadly



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