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New Eruptions in Hawaii Send Lava Closer to Power Plant


FILE - In this May 19, 2018, photo released by the U.S. Geological Survey, lava flows from fissures near Pahoa, Hawaii.

Workers raced Tuesday to cap wells at a geothermal plant threatened by lava pouring from Hawaii's erupting Kilauea volcano.

The lava flow entered the 800-acre (330-hectare) property of the Puna Geothermal Venture Plant on Monday and destroyed a warehouse, but stalled about 300 yards from the nearest underground well. On Tuesday, the lava began advancing again.

The plant was shut down shortly after Kilauea began spewing lava on May 3.

Officials feared that if the lava breached uncapped wells, it could release hydrogen sulfide, a toxic and flammable gas.

County, state and federal authorities are monitoring the flow and working with the power plant "to ensure the safety of the surrounding communities," the county civil defense agency said in a statement. It added that nearby residents should be prepared to leave the area with little notice because of gas or lava inundation.

Kilauea's eruption, which has already produced nearly two dozen lava-spewing fissures, entered a more violent phase over the weekend, producing larger volumes of molten rock from fissures.

On Sunday, the first serious injury was reported when a man was hit by "lava spatter" — projectile molten rock — while sitting on his balcony.

"It hit him on the shin and shattered everything there down on his leg," County of Hawaii government spokeswoman Janet Snyder said.

Kilauea is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and one of five on the Big Island. Since May, about 2,000 people have been forced to evacuate, and lava has destroyed more than 47 buildings.

Scientists do not expect fatalities in the event of a large eruption because most of the exposed residential communities have been evacuated, and the southeastern part of the island where the volcano is located is sparsely populated.

Most of the Big Island and the rest of the state's island chain have not been affected by the volcanic activity. Officials said flights to and from the Big Island and the rest of the state have not been affected.

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