Hawaii's Kilauea volcano spews toxic gas as lava reaches the ocean

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory has revealed that the rate of eruptions on Big Island has increased

The eruption of the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii has taken a more risky turn for people in the area.

A Hawaii man standing on his third-floor balcony was hurt Saturday when he was hit by lava spatter, becoming the first person injured by the Kilauea eruption. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports. At the volcano's summit, two explosive eruptions unleashed clouds of ash.

Josh Green, an emergency room physician and Democratic state senator, said he treated several patients last week - from the Pahoa evacuation center to the opposite side of Hawaii island in Hawi - for symptoms related to the eruption.

The new lava is hotter, moves faster and has spread over a wider area. Authorities have warned that the most risky place to be exposed to "laze" is near the entry point of the lava into the sea.

Cathy Santy, a guest services representative at outdoor tour company Hawaii Forest and Trail in in Kailua-Kona, said she and two other colleagues were anxious about the long-term effects of breathing sulfur dioxide, hydrogen sulfide and ash even before Kilauea began erupting May 3.

Lava tourism is a significant local industry, and the Coast Guard has previously imposed similar limitations for tour boat operators at Kilauea's Kamokuna ocean entry.

A steady stream of lava continues gushing from fissures on Hawaii's Big Island Monday.

"Health hazards of laze include lung, eye and skin irritation", officials told residents, according to USA Today.

A series of earthquake have hit the region of Hawaii close to the Kilauea volcano
GETTYA series of earthquake have hit the region of Hawaii close to the Kilauea volcano

Laze occurs when hot lava meets the ocean, sending a plume of hydrochloric acid and steam - along with fine glass particles - into the air.

"Here's nature reminding us again who's boss", Joseph Kekedi, an orchid grower who lives near the spot where lava is flowing into the sea, told The Associated Press.

Acid rain from laze has corrosive properties equivalent to diluted battery acid, the agency said. Levels of sulfur dioxide have tripled in emissions.

Kilauea has burned about 40 structures, including two dozen homes, since the eruption began.

These lava flows, while devastating for homes in the way of these flows, will gradually add new land to the Big Island, continuing a long geologic history of natural island-building.

Resident Ikaika Marzo said the lava flow isn't just treacherous.

Workers are now trying to shut down the plant's three wells, which run 6,000 to 8,000 feet (1,829-2,438 meters) underground to tap into extremely hot water and steam used to run turbines and produce electricity.

Hawaii tourism officials have stressed that most of the Big Island remains unaffected by the eruption and is open for business.


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