May 8 (UPI) — Officials ordered all residents in a community on Hawaii’s Big Island to evacuate after two new volcanic fissures opened and began spewing lava Tuesday.
Hawaii County Civil Defense administrator Talmadge Magno said the about 300 residents of the small Lanipuna Gardens subdivision were still evacuating as of 3:30 p.m. PST.
Evacuations were ordered in the area after a total 14 confirmed volcanic vents had opened on the island of Hawai’i.
Lava has burned 37 structures, including 27 homes, according to Hawaii County Civil Defense.
Unlike Leilani Estates, where 1,700 residents who were ordered to evacuate earlier were allowed to temporarily return to their homes to retrieve pets and personal items, those in Lanipuna Gardens won’t be permitted to return due to hazardous volcanic gases.
With varying intensity, the fissures were emitting steam and high levels of toxic sulphuric gases, as well as spewing lava. The volcano itself had been shooting lava streams up to 230 feet in the air.
On Monday there were 12 fissures in or near the Leilani Estates subdivision of Puna on the eastern end of the big island. Lava was no longer coming out of the fissures but toxic sulfur dioxide fumes remained a major concern.
Rain and winds on Monday allowed for relatively good air quality, with the same forecast for Tuesday.
“The wind and the rain together seems to be working in our favor,” Janet Snyder, county public relations specialist, told the Honolulu Star Advertiser.
The wind is expected to die down Wednesday, which could cause the emissions to stagnate and linger over the area, Snyder said.
“We’re trying to get as much done as we can with the better air quality that we have now,” Snyder said.
Meanwhile, a new problem is brewing underground in Puna. Authorities closed a stretch of Highway 130 after the roadway cracked and expanded to up to 4 inches wide.
“It’s probably part of the deformation from the magma being under the rift,” said Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno.
Flammable pentane at a geothermal power plant is also causing concern. On Monday, Puna Geothermal Venture announced it will move about 60,000 gallons of flammable pentane from its plant in Pohoiki, which has shut down operations.
The pentane has not been moved yet because the company does not have the containers needed to transport the chemical safely, according to county officials. Residents worry the lava could ignite the flammable gas and cause a major explosion.
Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim said he “was taken aback a little bit because when we talked about the pentane, there were no provisions to remove the pentane. So, lesson No. 1, when this is over — and hopefully it will be over — we will ensure that this is addressed.”