Deadly acid cloud rises over Hawaii as lava streams into ocean

Geraldine Edwards
May 22, 2018

As Hawaii's KÄ«lauea volcano continues to erupt, lava flows have reached the Pacific Ocean, prompting local authorities to issue warnings of a potentially deadly new hazard.

On Saturday a man suffered a broken leg after he was hit by lava as he stood on his third-floor balcony.

The homeowner on Noni Farms Road in Pahoa was hit with lava on the shin and taken to the hospital with serious injuries, Janet Snyder, spokeswoman for the Office of the Mayor, told Reuters.

David Mace, a spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency who was helping Hawaii County respond to the disaster, said a man was struck in the leg by a flying piece of lava. "Lava is pouring out like a fountain. feeding a fast-moving lava stream that's now reached 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, the Hawaii County Civil Defense agency said.

Since the eruption, over 2,000 residents of Hawaii have been ordered to evacuate, according to CBS.

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When the lava enters the ocean, it generates a laze plume - a unsafe mix of lava and haze that can cause eye, lung and skin irritation.

The lava haze, or "laze", from the plume was just offshore and running parallel to the coast, said U.S. Geological Survey scientist Wendy Stovall.

"This hot, corrosive gas mixture caused two deaths immediately adjacent to the coastal entry point in 2000, when seawater washed across recent and active lava flows", the HVO said.

The HVO also reported sulfur dioxide emissions have tripled.

Once formed, the effects of the laze plume are literally blowing in the wind. Scientists said that's because the lava that first erupted was magma left over from a 1955 erupted that had been stored in the ground for the past six decades.

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Charlie Mandeville of the Volcano Hazards Program at the USGS told ABC News "the trade winds in Hawaii are now blowing the laze to the southwest direction, causing the southeast shore of Kilauea to be at highest risk of the plume".

The volcano has opened more than 20 vents, including four that have merged into one large crack.

The volcanic activity, which has been going on for more than two weeks, has burned around 40 structures, including two dozen homes.

Joseph Kekedi, an orchid grower who lives and works about 3 miles from where lava dropped into the sea, said the flow luckily did not head toward him. It has been gushing lava high into the sky and sending a river of molten rock toward the ocean at about 300 yards (274 meters) per hour.

Volcanic gasses are blazing from the Kilauea volcano at fissure 13 on Hawaii's Big Island.

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

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