Blue Flames Join Lava Light Show On Hawaii During Kilauea Eruption

Workers in Hawaii plugging energy wells as lava flows nearby

The Kilauea volcano erupted three weeks ago in Hawaii, and between the gushing lava, ash and toxic gas, it's a never-ending nightmare for Lower Puna residents.

Officials with the US Geological Survey, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory say the flames are from methane gas that is produced as a byproduct of burning vegetation that gets buried by lava. Officials are concerned that "laze", a risky product produced when hot lava hits cool ocean water, will affect residents.

Production wells at a geothermal plant under threat by lava flowing from Hawaii's Kilauea volcano have been plugged to prevent toxic gases from seeping out, authorities said.

An explosive eruption at the Kilauea summit at 3:45 a.m. (9:45 a.m. EST) sent ash to a height of 8,000 feet over Hawaii's Big Island, civil defense said.

Gases, especially sulfur dioxide, and other fumes are being released and these have caused breathing difficulties for people who have inhaled them, but again these problems are confined to the immediate vicinity of Kilauea.

The lava from the Kilauea volcano has destroyed around 50 homes and structures, 2,000 people remain evacuated. One man was seriously injured after being hit by a flying piece of lava. Light purple areas indicate lava flows erupted in 1840, 1955, 1960, and 2014-2015.

That suggests it is possible new fissures could open west of Leilani that would cut Highway 130, leaving a large area from MacKenzie State Recreation Area to Kalapana without a ground evacuation route. This video shows activity from fissure 5 in the Leilani Estates subdivision on May 23.

Workers in Hawaii plugging energy wells as lava flows nearby

Joe Kekedi takes pictures as lava enters the ocean, generating plumes of steam near Pahoa, Hawaii.

Residents down rift of the lava flows should be prepared to voluntarily evacuate at a moment's notice.

Officials shut down Puna Geothermal shortly after the eruption began.

One major potential hazard that appeared to have been brought under control was at the Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV) plant, which provides about a quarter of the Big Island's electricity.

Travis said workers might also try to plug the wells, perhaps by filling them with mud and capping them with iron plugs.

Earlier this month officials removed a flammable gas called pentane from the plant to reduce the chance of explosions. Blasts could toss rocks several feet.

Geological Survey scientist Wendy Stovall said the methane could cause explosions when it ignited while trapped underground.

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