Kilauea volcano eruption in Hawaii rains down drama, destruction

GETTY The erupting lava has begun pouring into the sea

GETTY The erupting lava has begun pouring into the sea

A lava flow from the volcano has already destroyed almost 50 buildings, including dozens of homes, and is now dangerously close to a geothermal plant on the island.

Snyder said none of the wells were in imminent danger, as the flow was barely moving and still several hundred yards (meters) from the plant.

Kilauea's eruption, which has already produced almost two dozen lava-spewing fissures, entered a more violent phase at the weekend, producing larger volumes of molten rock from fissures.

"The Puna Geothermal Venture had always been contentious on the island, the Associated Press reported, with some native Hawaiians saying that it desecrated Kilauea, where the goddess of fire, Pele, is said to live".

Production wells at the Puna Geothermal plant, which harnesses heat and steam from the earth's core to spin turbines to generate power, have been plugged to prevent toxic gases from seeping out. A flammable gas called pentane is used as part of the process, though officials earlier this month removed 50,000 gallons (190,000 liters) of the gas from the plant to reduce the chance of explosions. Pele, the goddess of fire, is believed to live on Kilauea, and the plant is thought by certain elements to desecrate her name, the Associated Press reports.

However, stream of red-hot lava destroyed a former geothermal project site adjacent to the PGV grounds, civil defense said.

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Puna Geothermal represents about 4.5 percent of Ormat's worldwide generating capacity.

Besides explosive eruptions from the summit, Kilauea is oozing lava into neighborhoods about 25 miles (40 kilometers) away.

Beyond the immediate fire danger from the lava, high levels of sulfur dioxide spewing from the volcano pose a serious threat to children, elderly people, and people with respiratory issues, the United States Geological Survey said. One man was seriously injured after being hit by a flying piece of lava.

Scientists say lava from Kilauea is causing explosions as it enters the ocean, which can look like fireworks.

But Kilauea's activity ratcheted up considerably on May 3 after an quake rattled the region; lava began spilling from newly created fissures and spreading through neighborhoods, turning parts of the Big Island into disaster zones.

The molten rock - flowing into the ocean, as residents cope with lava bombs, toxic gas, and a deadly, airborne mix of hydrochloric acid and glass particles.

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