Hawaii volcano park to close amid explosion concerns

Kilauea volcano could soon send boulders and ash shooting out of its summit crater

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 where began erupting lava in a residential neighbourhood last week.

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

Kilauea has destroyed 36 structures — including 26 homes — since it began releasing lava from vents about 25 miles (40 kilometres) east of the summit crater. There are now 15 of the vents spread through Leilani Estates and neighbouring Lanipuna Gardens.

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

The Puna Geothermal Venture plant has about 50,000 gallons (189,270 litres) of pentane on site but he expected this would all be removed by the end of the day Thursday.

It would be “very, very hazardous” if a volcanic vent were to open under the facility where the fuel is stored, the governor said.

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

READ MORE: Despite risks, volcano offers affordable piece of paradise

READ MORE: Hawaiian volcanic eruption leaves former Vancouver resident shaken

In the weeks ahead, the summit crater could eject blocks up to 2 yards (1.8 metres) in diameter a little less than a mile (1.6 kilometres) away, the United States Geological Survey said. It may also send pebbles shooting into the air several miles away, the USGS said. Distant towns such as Hilo, about 30 miles (48 kilometres) away, could get a dusting of ash.

The receding lava lake resembles conditions seen before a major summit eruption in 1924, said Tina Neal, scientist-in-charge at the USGS Hawaiian Volcanoes Observatory.

That explosion killed one person and sent rocks, ash and dust into the air for 17 days.

This event could occur again when the summit lava lake drops so low that groundwater is able to flow into the conduit that feeds magma to the crater. The magma would heat the water, sending steam into the air that would push any accumulated rocks out in an explosion.

Don Swanson, a geologist with the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, said the magma is likely to drop below the water table around the middle of the month. Scientists don’t know how long after that it an explosion could occur.

“We suspect it’s a rapid process. We really don’t know for certain,” he told reporters on a conference call.

No one lives in the immediate area of the summit crater. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which includes the crater and surrounding region, announced Wednesday that it will shut down Friday in anticipation of the possible explosive event.

“It seems pretty safe to me right now but they’d know best,” said Cindy Woodd, who was visiting from British Columbia, Canada. “We don’t know what’s going on underground. Life and safety is what’s most important.”

Authorities previously ordered nearly 2,000 residents to leave the neighbourhoods in and around the vents in the mostly rural district of Puna. But some ignored the order and stayed to watch over their property. Authorities went door-to-door in Lanipuna to get people out of their homes on Tuesday.

Police said Wednesday they arrested a man suspected of burglarizing homes in Leilani Estates. A resident saw the man leaving his house when he returned to retrieve personal belongings. The resident and a friend took the suspect to police officers who arrested him.

Some residents have refused to follow evacuation orders because of fears their homes will be looted.

McAvoy reported from Honolulu. Associated Press journalists Caleb Jones, Haven Daley and Jennifer Sinco Kelleher in Honolulu contributed to this report.

Sophia Yan And Audrey McAvoy, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Regional District of Nanaimo board will be almost all new

Only 3-4 directors out of 19 returning to RDN board table

UPDATE: Premier promises Nanaimo byelection before February budget debate

Historically safe NDP seat will be vacated by longtime MLA Leonard Krog

LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Northfield intersection realignment won’t improve traffic flow

Is the new design actually any better, asks letter writer

Suspect who died at Nanaimo ferry terminal shot himself at the same time police fired

Officers didn’t commit any offence, says police watchdog office

Explosion at homeless camp causes brush fire along Millstone

Nanaimo Fire Rescue crews haul hundreds of metres of hose down ravine

OPINION: Nanaimo not only voted, but voted with purpose

Nanaimo’s civic leadership will see the change that so many wanted

WWE star Roman Reigns announces he has leukemia

Grappler formerly played in CFL

China opens mega-bridge linking Hong Kong to mainland

The $20 billion bridge took almost a decade to build while incurring major delays and cost overruns

Dangerous Cat 4 Hurricane Willa closing in on Mexico coast

Officials said 7,000 to 8,000 people were being evacuated from low-lying areas, mostly in Sinaloa state

Excessive speed named as cause of Taiwan train derailment

18 people were killed and at least 170 more were injured

Ovechkin has 4 points as Caps rough up Canucks 5-2

WATCH: Defending champs pick up impressive win in Vancouver

B.C. government moves to tighten resource industry regulations

New superintendent will oversee engineers, biologists, foresters

Election watchdog seeks digitally savvy specialists to zero in on threats

Move follows troublesome evidence of online Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election

Most Read