Hawaii faces new threat from volcano - gassy, glassy laze

Hot lava entering the Pacific Ocean creates deadly white clouds of acid. Image Reuters

Hot lava entering the Pacific Ocean creates deadly white clouds of acid. Image Reuters

Because of lava entering the ocean, the US Coast Guard enforced a Lava Entry Safety Zone Sunday for the navigable waters around the Kilauea Volcano.

The lava haze, or "laze", is created when molten rock hits the ocean and marks just the latest hazard from a volcano that has been generating earthquakes and spewing lava, sulfur dioxide and ash since it began erupting in Big Island backyards on May 3. He was sat on the balcony of his house when a lava spatter hit his leg, causing it to shatter. "Lava is pouring out like a fountain. feeding a fast-moving lava stream that's now reached the ocean". "The plume is an irritating mixture of hydrochloric acid gas (HCl), steam, and tiny volcanic glass particles", the USGS said.

Officials want residents in the remote and rural area of the Big Island to heed evacuation warnings. Even being downwind of the entry point is not advised because the wispy edges of the laze can cause skin and eye irritation and difficulty breathing.

Laze is a phenomenon which occurs when lava enters into sea water.

Acid rain from laze has corrosive properties equivalent to diluted battery acid, the agency said.

"A handful of old fissures have reactivated and joined together over the past few days", CNN correspondent Scott McLean said.

The noxious plumes of laze are extremely risky for people to breathe.

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Noni Farms Road is a residential road that lies to the east of the Leilani Estates neighborhood in Pahoa, where the majority of the attention has been focused ever since Kilauea's volcanic activity increased dramatically three weeks ago.

"With fresher, hotter magma, there's the potential that the lava flows can move with greater ease and therefore cover more area", Janet Babb, a geologist for the U.S. Geological Survey, told Hawaii News Now.

Evacuation orders for two neighbourhoods with almost 2,000 people were given after the first fissure opened on May 3.

Scientists explained that is because the lava which first erupted was magma left over from a 1955 eruption which had been stored in the ground for the past six decades. It has been gushing lava high into the sky and sending a river of molten rock toward the ocean at about 300 yards (274 meters) per hour.

Dozens of homes have burned, lava has crossed a road and explosions at the summit bring worries about ash fallout.

With Highway 137 severed, authorities were trying on Sunday to open up nearby Highway 11, which was blocked by nearly a mile (1.6 km) of lava in 2014, to serve as an alternate escape route.

Volcanic gasses are blazing from the Kilauea volcano at fissure 13 on Hawaii's Big Island. However, they stress that most of the Big Island and the rest of the state remains largely unaffected by the latest events.

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