The ongoing eruption of Kilauea Volcano has consumed 36 structures in the past week and could destroy or cut off access to hundreds more.
Governor David Ige said the state has spent more than $400,000 in emergency funds since May 3 to protect life and property from lava flows and earthquakes that have occurred in the volcano’s East Rift Zone, and predicted the state will spend more than $2.9 million over the next 30 days protecting residents.
That does not include permanent repairs or damage incurred from earthquakes, he said.
The governor’s office projects the initial costs will “skyrocket” if air or sea evacuations become necessary.
“As more fissures open and toxic gas exposure increases, the potential of a larger scale evacuation increases,” Ige said.
“A mass evacuation of the lower Puna District would be beyond current county and state capabilities, and would quickly overwhelm our collective resources.”
The scramble on Hawai‘i island to cope with the eruption continued Thursday as a geothermal power plant completed its removal of more than 230,000 litres of the chemical pentane, easing fears that it might be ignited by a lava flow.
The Puna Geothermal Venture plant is shut down, but their is a potential hazard from hydrogen sulfide and other gases if one or more of the deep geothermal wells is ruptured by an earthquake or lava flow.
Hawai‘i Civil Defence Agency administrator, Talmadge Magno, said the agency is considering a plan to inject water into the wells, which are up to 2.4 kilometres deep, to prevent an uncontrolled well blowout.
However, special equipment would need to be shipped from California to accomplish that, he said.
The 15 fissures that opened on the flanks of Kileaeu volcano over the past week issued fumes but no lava Thursday, but US Geological Survey geophysicist Jim Kauahikaua said scientists have detected increased seismic activity suggesting the intrusion of magma that caused the eruption under the Leilani Estates is once again on the move, he said.
That may be an indicator of magma travelling through an underground system, and could be a precursor of a new vents opening farther to the east, he said.
The eruption in and around Leilani Estates has now covered more than 47 hectares with lava and prompted the evacuation of an estimated 1800 residents from the subdivisions of Leilani Estates, Lanipuna Gardens and rural areas nearby.
Scientists have also warned of an explosive hazard nearly 50km away at the Kilauea summit as the lava lake at Halemaumau drains off and eventually dips below the water table which is about 500 metres below the floor of the crater.
When that happens, water could pour into the hot magma conduit, which might lead to steam-powered explosions that could blast boulders as large as two metres wide more than a kilometre from the crater.
Those explosions could occur with little warning and launch pebble-size rocks as far as “several kilometres and send huge ash plumes into the air.
- PNC sources