New headache for Hawaii; lava flowing into Pacific Ocean
Hawaii residents coping with Kilauea's volcanic eruption faced a potentially deadly new hazard on Sunday as authorities warned that lava flows reaching the Pacific Ocean could produce noxious clouds of acid fumes, steam and tiny, glass-like particles.
The civil defense notices cautioned motorists, boaters and beachgoers to beware of caustic plumes of "laze" formed from two streams of hot lava pouring into the sea after cutting across Highway 137 on the south coast of Hawaii's Big Island late on Saturday and early Sunday.
The bulletins also warned that reports of toxic sulfur dioxide gas being vented from various points around the volcano had tripled, urging residents to "take action necessary to limit further exposure."
Laze - a term combining the words "lava" and "haze" - is a mix of hydrochloric acid fumes, steam and fine volcanic glass specks created when erupting lava, which can reach 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1,093 degrees Celsius), reacts with sea water, Hawaii County Civil Defense said in a statement.
Kilauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes, began extruding red-hot lava and sulfuric acid fumes through newly opened fissures on the ground along its eastern flank on May 3, marking the latest phase of an eruption cycle that has continued nearly nonstop for 35 years.
The occurrence of new lava-spewing vents, now numbering at least 22, have been accompanied by flurries of earthquakes and periodic eruptions of ash, volcanic rock and toxic gases from the volcano's summit crater.
The lava flows have destroyed dozens of homes and other buildings, ignited brush fires and displaced thousands of residents who were either ordered evacuated or fled voluntarily.