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US Marines prepare for helicopter evacuation of Hawaii’s Big Island residents

A third lava flow from Hawaii’s erupting Kilauea volcano streamed into the ocean on Thursday as US Marines Corps helicopters stood by to evacuate a Big Island community should molten rock or huge cracks block its final escape route.

Six huge fissures sent rivers of molten rock through a blackened, volcanic wilderness that was once jungle, farmland and rural homes.

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Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, entered the fourth week of what may be an unprecedented, simultaneous eruption at its summit crater and along a six-mile string of fissures 25 miles down its east flank.

At least 50 rural homes and other structures have been destroyed by lava from the fissures. One person was seriously injured after being hit by a flying piece of lava.

  

A third lava flow from Hawaii’s erupting Kilauea volcano streamed into the ocean on Thursday as US Marines Corps helicopters stood by to evacuate a Big Island community should molten rock or huge cracks block its final escape route

Six huge fissures sent rivers of molten rock through a blackened, volcanic wilderness that was once jungle, farmland and rural homes

Six huge fissures sent rivers of molten rock through a blackened, volcanic wilderness that was once jungle, farmland and rural homes

The US Marine Corps deployed two CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters to Hilo, about 24 miles north, in support of a task force standing by in case an air evacuation is needed. Each helicopter can carry up to 50 people at a time

The US Marine Corps deployed two CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters to Hilo, about 24 miles north, in support of a task force standing by in case an air evacuation is needed. Each helicopter can carry up to 50 people at a time

Kilauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes, entered the fourth week of what may be an unprecedented, simultaneous eruption at its summit crater and along a six-mile string of fissures 25 miles down its east flank

Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, entered the fourth week of what may be an unprecedented, simultaneous eruption at its summit crater and along a six-mile string of fissures 25 miles down its east flank

Some 2,000 people have faced mandatory evacuations and another 2,000 in coastal communities may be forced to leave their homes if State Highway 130, their last exit, becomes blocked.

The US Marine Corps deployed two CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters to Hilo, about 24 miles north, in support of a task force standing by in case an air evacuation is needed. Each helicopter can carry up to 50 people at a time.

‘We now have the capacity to evacuate all of the estimated population of lower Puna south of the lava flow within a few hours,’ Brigadier General Kenneth Hara of the Hawaii National Guard said in a statement.

Road crews dumped material into cracks on the road and covered them with steel plates in an effort to keep the highway open.

‘Talks and discussions have been underway for possible air evacuations if it did come to that,’ Tim Sakahara, Hawaii Department of Transportation, told reporters in a conference call.

Up at Kilauea’s 4,091-foot summit, at least 12 explosions a day on average are pumping ash plumes thousands of feet into the sky. 

Members of the National Guard released stunning aerial footage of the Kilauea volcano Tuesday morning as they monitored lava flow that was nearing the Puna Geothermal Venture power plant. Production wells at the plant were finally plugged on Wednesday to prevent toxic gases from seeping out

Members of the National Guard released stunning aerial footage of the Kilauea volcano Tuesday morning as they monitored lava flow that was nearing the Puna Geothermal Venture power plant. Production wells at the plant were finally plugged on Wednesday to prevent toxic gases from seeping out

The National Guard mans Highway 130 to ensure only local traffic gets through on May 23, 2018, in Pahoa, Hawaii, amid eruptions from the Kilauea volcano

The National Guard mans Highway 130 to ensure only local traffic gets through on May 23, 2018, in Pahoa, Hawaii, amid eruptions from the Kilauea volcano

Ash drifted up to 26 miles southwest to dust the black sands of Punaluu beach with gray powder before blowing out to sea.

Scientists said Thursday that ash emissions from Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island reached 6,000 feet but quickly dispersed.

The ash is settling in small communities that are downwind. Trade winds are blowing the ash to the southwest.

Volcanic gas emissions at the summit remain high and the high levels increase the potential for volcanic smog that’s called ‘vog’.

Emissions are also high at fissures that began opening up earlier this month in communities about 25 miles from the summit. Lava continues to erupt in two evacuated subdivisions. 

The volcano has opened more than 20 vents in the ground that have released lava, sulfur dioxide and steam. The lava has been pouring down the flank of the volcano and into the ocean miles away.

Down on the east flank of the volcano, six fissures re-erupted in lava fountains, as volcanic activity moved west towards Highway 130.

Geologists said that after three weeks of escalating activity, Kilauea volcano has entered a ‘steady state’ of eruption.

'Eerie' blue flames are seen escaping from cracks in the ground as Hawaii's Kilauea volcano enters its third week of eruptions 

‘Eerie’ blue flames are seen escaping from cracks in the ground as Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano enters its third week of eruptions 

This photo, taken on Wednesday, shows blue burning flame of methane gas was observed in the cracks on Kahukai Street, overnight

This photo, taken on Wednesday, shows blue burning flame of methane gas was observed in the cracks on Kahukai Street, overnight

The volcano produces methane when hot lava buries and burns plants and trees. Scientists say the methane can seep through cracks several feet away from the lava 

The volcano produces methane when hot lava buries and burns plants and trees. Scientists say the methane can seep through cracks several feet away from the lava 

‘It’s probably going to do this for a little while longer,’ said US Geological Survey scientist Wendy Stovall on a conference call, describing the stage of the eruption as the ‘middle’ or ‘kind of the steady state.’

Earlier this week, scientists in Hawaii captured rare images of blue flames burning from cracks in the pavement. 

The blue flames are caused when underground methane gas, produced by the volcano, escapes through cracks and ignites from burning lava and vegetation. 

‘It’s very dramatic. It’s very eerie,’ Jim Kauahikaua, a US Geological Survey scientist, told reporters. 

He said it was only the second time he’s ever seen blue flames during an eruption. The volcano-related earthquakes have caused cracked to open up across Hawaii. 

In one case, a heartbroken family who evacuated during the early eruptions, returned home to find their property perched dangerously on top of a massive 10-foot wide crack.

A heartbroken family forced to evacuate when Hawaii's Kilauea volcano erupted returned home on Monday to find the property perched dangerously on top of a 10-foot wide crack

A heartbroken family forced to evacuate when Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano erupted returned home on Monday to find the property perched dangerously on top of a 10-foot wide crack

The huge crack, which runs 500-feet through the backyard and directly under the home, is threatening to swallow the property whole

The huge crack, which runs 500-feet through the backyard and directly under the home, is threatening to swallow the property whole

Noah Friend, his fiance Shantel Pacarro and their two children Naiah, 12, and Nainoa, 11, found the huge crack, which runs 500-feet through the backyard and directly under the home, threatening to swallow the property whole on Monday.

‘It’s just heartbreaking. There’s so many memories in that house. This is very devastating for our whole family, even our children. They grew up there. It’s the only home they knew,’ Pacarro said.

‘We’re all heartbroken.’ 

The methane created by the volcano can pose a serious danger for residents.

If a gas build-up ignites underground, it can cause explosions which can toss blocks several feet away, said Wendy Stovall, also a scientist at the Geological Survey.

Activists have also warned that a geothermal power plant in Hawaii at risk of being overrun with molten lava from the erupting Kilauea Volcano is a ‘ticking time bomb’, claim local activists.

Locals in the badly effected Puna district fear the fiery river of molten rock could overcome the plant which they have warned for decades was a disaster waiting to happen.

The volcano has opened more than 20 vents in the ground that have released lava, sulfur dioxide and steam 

The volcano has opened more than 20 vents in the ground that have released lava, sulfur dioxide and steam 

Only one person has been seriously hurt as a result of the eruption when they were hit by a flying piece of lava

Only one person has been seriously hurt as a result of the eruption when they were hit by a flying piece of lava

And as aerial photos showed the lava flow looming closer to the perimeter of the Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV) plant, engineers worked into the night on Tuesday to cap the 11th and final well, which provides about 25 per cent of the Big Island’s power.

As of Wednesday, lava had poured over warehouses just outside the plant and was about 100 yards from the facility as officials feared it could trigger the release of deadly hydrogen sulfate gas.

On Thursday, Stovall said lava spatter from one vent was forming a wall that was helping protect the plant. 

Lava from that vent was shooting further into the air and producing the highest lava wall of all the vents, which was blocking molten rock from flowing north toward the plant.

Plant workers removed 60,000 gallons of highly flammable pentane gas from the site and installed barriers and protective coverings over the area.

A satellite photo provided by DigitalGlobe shows lava coming out of fissures caused by Kilauea volcano, near Puna Geothermal Venture, a geothermal energy plant, which could explode if hit by lava

A satellite photo provided by DigitalGlobe shows lava coming out of fissures caused by Kilauea volcano, near Puna Geothermal Venture, a geothermal energy plant, which could explode if hit by lava

The wells at the Puna Geothermal Venture plant were plugged  as lava from Hawaii's Kilauea volcano inched closer to the site. The plant is pictured above on Tuesday

The wells at the Puna Geothermal Venture plant were plugged as lava from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano inched closer to the site. The plant is pictured above on Tuesday

But local activists, who for decades have argued the power plant should never have been built in a residential area, and have filed multiple lawsuits challenging its placement on Kilauea volcano, claim the danger is clear and present.

Activist Kalikolehua Kanaele of the protector group Aloha Aina (Love the Living God), told DailyMail.com: ‘This has been the greatest concern of this community for 50 years.

‘If the wells break the gas could ignite and there could be a huge explosion. It’s a ticking time bomb and we always knew this situation could arise. We just hope that a disaster can be averted and nobody gets hurt.’

Kanaele, 68, and others say the wells, which run as deep as 8,000ft, pose a serious risk from the lava if they overheat or are breached by underground seismic activity.

If the wells break, they could release tons of flammable and toxic hydrogen sulfide into the air around the current evacuation zone, which is already choked with volcanic smog.

The gas has the potential to cause huge explosions and winds could spark an emergency evacuation covering a 10-mile radius.

Lava erupts several feet into the air in Leilani Estates area near Pahoa, Hawaii on Wednesday 

Lava erupts several feet into the air in Leilani Estates area near Pahoa, Hawaii on Wednesday 

A satellite photo shows lava coming out of fissures caused by Kilauea volcano, running towards the Puna coast, lower right, along Malama Ki Forest Reserve recreation area in Pahoa, Hawaii 

A satellite photo shows lava coming out of fissures caused by Kilauea volcano, running towards the Puna coast, lower right, along Malama Ki Forest Reserve recreation area in Pahoa, Hawaii 

This past two weeks the Puna district has been hit with as many as 140 smaller earthquakes every day.

The PGV plant is 15 miles from the heart of the volcano, but while Ormat Technologies Inc – which runs the facility – last week insisted there was little risk of the lava reaching it, everyone’s worst nightmare is coming true.

While a roughly 10-square-mile area of the Puna district has been ravaged, authorities stressed the eruption was having limited effects on the Texas-sized island that is a major tourist destination.

Norwegian Cruise Line said it would reinstate port calls to the island’s two largest cities, Kona and Hilo, after cancelling them in recent weeks. 

Crystal Symphony cruises also said it planned to return to the two ports after cancelling a Wednesday Hilo stop due to ‘an abundance of caution’.



Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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