"Boulders the size of refrigerators" could be hurled into the air as the Kilauea volcano explosively erupts
According to scientists, explosions from the crater of Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could soon throw giant boulders and ash miles into the air
The Kilauea mountain in Hawaii could blow up any moment with rising levels of toxic gas, residents were warned of one of the world's most active volcanos.
According to experts, there could be more sulfur dioxide gas clouding the southeast section of the Big Island if the direction of the wind changes, reported CBS News.
“Due to decreasing tradewinds, residents are advised to monitor their sensitivity to increased levels of (sulfur dioxide),” a text alert message sent Thursday said.
The toxic fumes from the gas can be fatal if inhaled in large quantities.
Hawaii Governor David Ige said that there could be mass evacuation procedures if more cracks and fissures are detected around the volcano.
Since May 3, Kilauea has been releasing lava from vents about 25 miles east of the crater at the summit. As a result, over 36 structures have been destroyed, including 26 homes. As of the moment, fifteen of the vents have spread through the Lanipuna Gardens and Leilani Estates vicinity.
And as scorching hot lava emanated from the ground, over 2,000 residents were evacuated from the area.
Tragically, the volcano has jeopardized a geothermal energy plant, the Puna Geothermal Venture plant, as it has been sitting and sputtering lava for over a week. According to the governor, workers at the plant are accelerating the movement of stored flammable liquids which could wreak havoc if the lava came in contact with them.
A resident who lives nearby the plant, Barbara Lozano, said that she would not have bought the property in the locality if she had been informed of the geological risks.
“Why did they let us buy residential property, knowing it was a dangerous situation? Why did they let people build all around it?” she asked worriedly.
Another resident in the vicinity, 71-year-old coffee farmer Palikapu Dedman claims that the Puna plant disrespects traditional customs and rituals, thus angering the goddess of fire, Pele, who apparently lives at the crater. The farmer has spent most of his life opposing the situation of the plant on the slopes of Kilauea.
Dedman says he feels horrible that he was proven right and that the plant is now threatened by the volcano.
"You really can’t hurt Pele,” he said. “It’s just reinforcement of my beliefs — she’s present! And the plant could get covered by lava tomorrow.”
The instability of the plates in the area could mean other regions of the island are also at tremendous risk, according to a warning by the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO).
In a conversation with CNN, Governor Ige said that the entire situation has been tough for residents.
“There’s a sense that it’s Mother Nature,” he said. “The lava flow is unpredictable. It’s hard to determine which direction it will go. It starts and stops on a whim. That’s the uncertainty that residents are faced with.”
On Wednesday, geologists warned that the region could soon experience explosive eruptions from its gaping crater. It could also launch "ballistic" rocks and ash into the air, they said.
Experts also warned that boulders the size of refrigerators could be hurled along with black ash if the volcano explodes again. Such an event could have grave consequences on residents in all directions and could also shut down airline traffic.
“If it goes up, it will come down,” said Charles Mandeville, volcano hazards coordinator for the U.S. Geological Survey. “You don’t want to be underneath anything that weighs 10 tons when it’s coming out at 120 mph.”
The national park around the volcano announced that it would close due to the current status of the active volcano. An explosive eruption could ground planes at the two major airports in Big Island among other dangers.
“We know the volcano is capable of doing this,” said Mandeville, citing similar explosions at Kilauea in 1925, 1790 and four other times in the last few thousand years. “We know it is a distinct possibility.”
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) said that the threat of explosive activity will increase as the lava keeps draining and if the lava dips below the groundwater table, there could be explosions.
Such a scenario heats up the water to create steam, which would build pressure as falling rocks create a dam within the walls of the volcano. According to the HVO, these could ”cause steam-driven explosions” with “very little warning."
"Bigger materials can be blasted out of the vent and in the immediate area of the vent, it could be ballistics of several tons," USGS geologist Janet Babb said.
"All indications suggest that this could happen. And that's why we're taking measures now to be prepared for a possible steam explosion," Babb said.
Having said that, Harry Kim, the Hawaii County Mayor, said there's no more explosive gas on that site but added, "Obviously you have to work in a worst-case scenario, if we do have a rupture of the pipes, then we have to develop a solid system of timely evacuation."