PAHOA, HAWAII—White plumes of acid and extremely fine shards of glass billowed into the sky over Hawaii as molten rock from Kilauea volcano poured into the ocean, creating yet another hazard from an eruption that began more than two weeks ago: A toxic steam cloud.
Authorities on Sunday warned the public to stay away from the cloud that formed by a chemical reaction when lava touched seawater.
Further upslope, lava continued gushing out of large cracks in the ground in residential neighbourhoods in a rural part of the Big Island. The molten rock made rivers that bisected forests and farms as it meandered toward the coast.
The rate of sulphur dioxide gas shooting from the ground fissures tripled, leading Hawaii County to repeat warnings about air quality. At the volcano’s summit, two explosive eruptions unleashed clouds of ash. Winds carried much of it toward the southwest.
Joseph Kekedi, an orchid grower who lives and works about five kilometres from where lava dropped into the sea, said the flow luckily did not head toward him. At one point, it was about a 1.6 kilometre upslope from his property in the coastal community of Kapoho.
Residents can only stay informed and be ready to get out of the way, he said.
“Here’s nature reminding us again who’s boss,” Kekedi said.
Scientists said the steam clouds at the spots where lava entered the ocean were laced with hydrochloric acid and fine glass particles that can irritate skin and eyes and cause breathing problems.