Lava reaches geothermal plant in Hawaii, residents warned to leave

Toxic Hawaii volcano spews lava next to a geothermal plant

A reactivated fissure from Hawaii's Kilauea volcano threatened the Big Island's geothermal plant with a new lava flow Tuesday, which could trigger the release of toxic gases if it reaches wells at the plant, Hawaii officials said.

Steam rises as lava enters the Pacific Ocean at dawn, after flowing to the water from a Kilauea volcano fissure, on Hawaii's Big Island on May 22, 2018.

A man in shorts, T-shirt and flip-flops was seen on Sunday taking pictures of a sea of lava that has consumed a valley and woodland in the Puna District of Hawaii.

The 38 Megawatt Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV) power plant, which is located in the east rift zone of the Kilauea volcano, was shut down soon after the eruptions began on May 3.

"From our perspective, there's nothing that could occur at the PGV facility at the wells that would be any worse than what's already occurring with the eruption", Mike Kaleikini, senior director of Hawaii affairs for the plant, told the Honolulu Star Advertiser.

Lava destroyed a building near the plant, bringing the total number of structures overtaken in the past several weeks to almost 50, including dozens of homes.

Lava edged towards a geothermal power plant on Tuesday after destroying an old warehouse near the facility, County of Hawaii Civil Defense said.

Geologists say that the Kilauea explosion is significant and especially unsafe because both the summit and a series of fissures on its side are exploding simultaneously.

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The plant produces electricity by bringing steam up from underground wells and funnelling it to a turbine generator, reports CNN. Workers have also managed to remove 60,000 gallons (227,124 litres) of pentane, a highly flammable and noxious liquid that's used at the plant.

The latest update from the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said that a "moderate-level eruption" of lava was continuing to flow from Kilauea.

He says that pattern "is about par for the course" right now. Yet despite the very hot hotspot of geological activity, evacuations have gone smoothly, there have been no deaths, only one reported injury, and life has resumed, seemingly as usual, in communities like Hilo, less than 65 kilometers (40 miles) away.

"Our foremost concern is for the residents in the affected communities".

"The challenge with the eruption is that it is unpredictable", Ige told Hawaii News Now. It's been generating plumes of lava haze or "laze" as it interacts with seawater.

It's just the latest hazard from an eruption that has so far generated earthquakes and featured gushing molten rock, giant ash plumes and sulfur dioxide. Around two thousand people have been forced to evacuate, and many others have voluntarily left their homes.

On Monday, lava entered and then stalled on the property of a geothermal plant near one of Kilauea's new volcanic vents.

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