Explosive event possible at Hawaii volcano — Geologists

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Scientists say activity from the most recent lava fissure that opened up has paused but risky fumes continue to be released.

Now experts fear Hawaii's Kilauea volcano is at risk of explosive eruptions that could emit "ballistic projectiles", the USGS says.

Geologists warned Wednesday that Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could erupt explosively and send boulders, rocks and ash into the air around its summit in the coming weeks.

Kilauea is Hawaii's most active volcano, and it erupted last Thursday.

It said the "projectiles" emerging from the volcano could range from pebbles to rocks weighing several tons.

While there are no residents within the target areas, workers at the Puna Geothermal Venture, across the highway from where the lava is flowing are removing tens of thousands of gallons of flammable gas from the plant to a secure area.

Such blasts could grow more frequent if the receding magma in the summit chamber drops below groundwater levels, allowing steam to rush into the void and become trapped by more rock falls, causing explosive pressure buildups, scientists said.

Officials have warned of unsafe levels of sulfur dioxide gas. On May 3, big plumes of smoke and ash emerged from Kilauea and unsafe lava flows crept toward residential areas on the island's east side.

County officials say as of Thursday 15 fissures have emerged. But all of the pentane is expected to be removed by the end of the day today (May 10), the Associated Press reported. He says it would be "very hazardous" if a volcanic vent were to open under the facility where the fuel is stored.

That explosion killed one person and sent rocks, ash and dust into the air for 17 days. The magma would heat the water, sending steam into the air that would push any accumulated rocks out in an explosion. But the scientists cautioned that they are unable to predict with absolute certainty when, or even if, that would occur.

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"When all of this is over, and we digest the reams and mountains of data that we are collecting, we will know a lot more about Kilauea as a volcanic system", Christina Neal, the vulcanologist in charge at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory of the US Geological Survey, told a news conference on Wednesday.

"We suspect it's a rapid process. We really don't know for certain", he told reporters.

That powerful outburst occurred after rockfalls caused the collapse of the Pu'u 'Ō'ō crater at the summit of Kilauea, which had been puffed up like a soufflé filled with red-hot lava.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which includes the crater and surrounding region, announced 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.

While the national park has been forced to close intermittently over the last two weeks, much of life on the Big Island remains unaffected by eruptions and lava flows.

Authorities had previously ordered almost 2,000 residents to leave Lanipuna Gardens and the neighboring Leilani Estates area, both located in the mostly rural district of Puna on Hawaii's Big Island. But some ignored the order and stayed to watch over their property.

In any case, the Hawaii County Civil Defense is reporting that all 1,900 people living in the Leilani Estates and Laipuna Garden areas (both around 25 miles east of the volcano) have been evacuated.

Police say a Leilani Estates resident returned to his home Wednesday to retrieve personal belongings when he saw the man leaving his house.

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