Hawaii: More volcanic explosions expected Big Island

The Pavlof volcano erupts on Alaska's remote Aleutian Island archipelago in March 2016

The Pavlof volcano erupts on Alaska's remote Aleutian Island archipelago in March 2016

Since the eruption started more than a week ago, around 2,000 residents have been evacuated and 27 homes have been destroyed, with lava now covering more than 117 acres of land.

The Volcano Observatory says they can not predict with certainty if or when these steam driven explosions will occur or how large they might be. Last month it was floods on Kauai.

Authorities ordered two subdivisions in the area to evacuate last week.

The threat of risky volcanic activity in Hawaii could continue for weeks and violent explosions could occur with "very little warning", the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory cautioned Wednesday.

Geologists said Kilauea may be entering a new phase of explosive eruptions not seen in almost a century that could hurl "ballistic blocks" weighing up to 12 tons for half a mile (800 meters), and rain pebble-sized fragments for another mile or two (1.8 to 3.2 km).

"This is three football fields going down", Charles Mandeville, volcano hazards coordinator for the U.S. Geological Survey, said. "You don't want to be underneath anything that weighs 10 tons when it's coming out at 120 miles per hour (193 kph)".

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He would not estimate the likelihood of such an explosion but said internal volcanic conditions are changing in a way that could lead to a blast in about a week.

"It's just disgusting. You can't breathe in there", said evacuated resident Robynn Stagg, 58, who drove through the thick, orange sulfur dioxide haze earlier this week in a failed attempt to check on her home.

As a lava lake at Kilauea's summit drains inside the volcano, magma is running underground.

Due to the anticipated steam-induced explosion at the summit of Kīlauea caused by the receding lava lake, and the possibility of a rock and ash fall event, the majority of the park is closed until further notice. Those types of big blowouts usually take place in stratovolcanoes, steep-sided, cone-shaped volcanoes where pressure builds up in a central vent until the mountain pops in a dramatic explosion. Now it is lava from Kilauea volcano on the Big Island.

The National Park surrounding the danger zone has been shut down over the fear of flying boulders. Fifteen vents are now spread through the Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens neighborhoods.

No one lives in the immediate area of the summit but communities up to two miles away could be showered by pea-size fragments or dusted with nontoxic ash, said Tina Neal, scientist-in-charge at the Hawaii Volcano Observatory.

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Hawaii Gov. David Ige says a geothermal energy plant near the lava outbreak would remove its storage of a flammable gas called pentane by the end of the day Thursday.

A total of 36 structures have been destroyed so far, authorities said. The fuel was expected to be removed by the end of Thursday.

About 2,000 people have been evacuated from the neighborhoods were lava has oozed from the ground.

"I'm not too anxious about it because I've lived here so long and I've seen it go through lots of different episodes", Hughes said.

"We want to make sure that everybody is still working and people have jobs to go back to", Birch said.

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