Hawaii volcano could spew boulders the size of refrigerators

First lava, now ballistic projectiles. Explosive eruptions added to list of fears for Hawaii residents

There was more activity from Hawaii's Kilauea volcano Wednesday after an explosion triggered by rocks falling into the crater of the volcano, a massive cloud of smoke, steam, and gasses could be seen rising into the air.

Since the volcano began actively erupting last week, more than a thousand people have been evacuated, and at least 26 homes have been destroyed.

Magma had steadily bubbled up for weeks inside the main crater at Kilauea's summit, and at the separate Pu'u 'O'o crater miles (kilometers) away on the volcano's eastern flank called the east rift zone.

Lava drained from the collapsed crater underground.

"Primary hazards of concern should this activity occur are ballistic projectiles and ashfall", according to the Hawaiian Volcanic Observatory of the U.S. Geological Survey.

That raises the risk for an explosion at the summit.

This kind of sudden, violent eruption would happen if lava flows from Kilauea's crater down its inner tunnel and magma reaches ground water - creating steam pressure that would then explode, the USGS tweeted. Locations within several miles of the summit would be subject to falls of marble-sized rocks, fine-grained material and ash.

Because of its distance from the summit of the volcano, Leilani Estates would experience a light dusting of ash, said Tina Neal, the scientist in charge at the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

Most of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park will close on Friday because of the possibility of a steam-induced explosion at the summit of Kilauea. Small amounts of fine ash from these explosions fell over a wide area as far north as North Hilo (Hakalau), in lower Puna, and as far south as Waiohinu. Ash is primarily a nuisance, and can irritate the eyes and breathing, reduce visibility and cause roadways to be slippery, and interfere with electrical lines. If the lava column drops to the level of groundwater beneath Kīlauea Caldera, influx of water into the conduit could cause steam-driven explosions.

Also Monday, a different type of explosion occurred at the summit at 8:27 a.m. local time.

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Once the lava drops, rocks that had been superheated could fall into the lava tube.

The 13th and 14th vent erupted Tuesday in the Leilani Estates area, where roughly 1,700 residents were asked to evacuate last week.

But the eruptions could resume.

While the lava destroys everything it touches, having an internal temperature of up to 1200degC, its movement is sluggish, allowing time for evacuations and other emergency responses.

The neighborhood is called Leilani Estates and a resident who went back to retrieve some things from his home says he saw the suspect in question exiting the residence.

She adds: "So far, more than 200 residents and their pets have sought refuge in two Red Cross shelters, while hundreds more are staying with family and friends".

As hellish as this situation sounds to the ordinary observer, apparently scientists aren't too anxious about it. USGS representative Donald Swanson said that geologists "don't anticipate there being any wholesale devastation or evacuations necessary anywhere in the state of Hawaii". ( US Geological Survey ) Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was expected to shut down in anticipation of a possible explosive event.

On May 3, big plumes of smoke and ash emerged from Kilauea and unsafe lava flows crept toward residential areas on the island's east side.

Surfers bobbing in the ocean off Kona on the west side of the Big Island complained of the smog that could be seen in a haze over the coast.

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