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After historic eruption, Kilauea volcano turns more deadly

Sheetal Sukhija - Monday 11th June, 2018

HAWAII, U.S. - On Sunday morning, 38 days after the Kilauea volcano erupted dangerously and covered Hawaii’s largest island with ash, lava and toxic gases - another small explosion occurred at the summit.

Explosions have continued to plague Big Island since the historic eruption at Kilauea, which began on May 3.

Officials stated that Sunday’s explosion spewed ash plumes over Big Island’s southernmost district of Kau.

According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the lava that continues to rain from Kilauea, has now reached a new high temperature of 2,140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Wendy Stovall, a scientist with USGS pointed out in a statement, "This is the hottest lava we've seen during this eruption. Lava can't get hotter than where we are."

The agency added that “vigorous eruptions of lava” continue to burst from the crater, sending deadly lava 200ft into the ash-ridden sky.

USGS said that it has kept the area on red alert after a fissure in the lower east rift zone spewed a fountain of blistering lava at an extraordinary height.

The agency said, “Vigorous eruption of lava continues from the lower East Rift Zone (LERZ) fissure system in the area of Leilani Estates. If the recent pattern of these explosions is repeated, we expect the next small explosion to occur within 24 hours. Lava fountaining from Fissure 8 continued throughout the day, topping out at about 200 feet in height.”

USGS has now put the region on a ‘warning’ volcano alert level and aviation code ‘red’.

It also noted that, “Volcanic gas emissions remain very high from Fissure 8 eruptions. Trade wind conditions are expected to bring vog to the south and west sides of the Island of Hawaii.”

On Sunday, lava bubbling under the extreme pressure was said to have filled Kapoho Bay and the rock-hard magma has created nearly a mile of new land.

Officials also warned that “volcanic glass” from the dangerous fissure 8 is falling downwind and “accumulating on the ground at Leilani Estates.”

USGS said, “High winds may waft lighter particles to greater distances. Residents are urged to minimise exposure to these volcanic particles, which can cause skin and eye irritation similar to volcanic ash.”

Further, authorities have said that the eruption has also produced a mysterious ice-cold rain and temperatures are plummeting to below freezing.

Pete Caggiano, a local meteorologist explained that the volcano’s eruption was so unusual that it had necessitated a winter weather warning.

Caggiano said in a statement, "Lava flow has actually prompted a winter weather advisory for the summit of the Big Island. Lava is entering into the ocean that is creating a lot of steam. As that steam rises up it cools and falls back down as freezing rain and fog. I have never seen this before. This has sparked a winter weather warning for above 12,000 ft. There are ice on the roadways so this is creating dangerous conditions. This weather is yet another unusual byproduct of this lava flow that continues to emerge."

The historic eruption of Kilauea on May 3 has been dubbed the biggest eruption cycle in a century of one of the world's most active volcanoes.

The USGS has said that since the initial eruption, more than 22 fissures have opened up and vigorous lava eruptions continue to spill across thousands of acres of land.

The agency further added that the eruption has, so far, destroyed 600 homes, sent 2,500 residents into evacuation and released enough burning-hot magma to cover all of Manhattan in 6.5 feet of lava. 

Commenting on the destruction, Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim said, “I’m talking about 600 families. Don’t forget the farmers, don’t forget the ranchers, don’t forget all the employees for them.”

Authorities also said on Sunday that the huge blasts at the volcano has sent rocks, gas and smoke through hundreds of meters across the state.

However, more dangerous was the sulfur dioxide emissions emerging from a number of ground fissures caused by the active volcano, that still remain elevated. 

Officials warned that the pungent chemical compound can cause respiratory problems in low doses and can be deadly when found in large concentrations. 

The county of Hawaii civil defense agency warned, "Severe conditions may exist such as choking and inability to breathe. This is a serious situation that affects the entire exposed population."

The erupting volcano also continues to spew airborne glass fibers, known as “Pele’s Hair.” 

Officials have warned that the light strings of volcanic glass can travel great distances, but are dangerous to touch or inhale.

Geologists have said that the volcano is showing no signs of slowing its eruption and that since the initial eruption, there have been over 500 earthquakes.

Further, lava is now said to have covered nearly 8 miles of land and a half a mile wide lava-flow has made an entry into the ocean. 

This has further triggered another warning by experts, who pointed out that when lava interacts with seawater it forms a toxic mix of acid fumes, glass, and steam that can be dangerous to boaters and nearby residents.

According to Scott Rowland, a volcano specialist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, Kilauea has now become the most devastating volcanic eruption on U.S. soil since the 1980 Mount St. Helens eruption in Washington State.

However, so far, no deaths have been reported, even though residents and Hawaii’s local government are bracing for the long and expensive cleanup process.

According to authorities, the volcanic disaster is believed to be the most costly and destructive in U.S. history.

While Hawaii Governor David Ige allocated $12 million to immediate disaster relief last year, experts have pointed out that the island will likely need much more in long-term disaster funding once the active volcano is under control.

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