Fast-moving lava crossed a road and isolated about 40 homes Friday in a rural subdivision below Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano, forcing at least four people to be evacuated by county and National Guard helicopters. (May 19)

After destroying dozens of houses, lava from the Kilauea volcano has now reached the ocean, presenting a new health threat to Hawaiians.

Civil defense authorities on Hawaii posted a warning to stay clear of any lava stream that is flowing into the ocean. When the super hot lava hits the cooler sea water, it produces what is called “laze,” hydrochloric acid steam that pours into the air along with fine particles of glass.

“Health hazards of laze include lung, eye and skin irritation,” the agency said in a message to residents. “Be aware that the laze plume travels with the wind and can change direction without warning.”

The latest dispatch from Civil Defense says a lava flow crossed Highway 137 at the 13-mile marker and has entered the ocean. Another flow is 1,300 feet from the same highway, resulting in closure of the highway between Kamaili Road and Pohoiki Road.

The threat comes as one of the first injuries as a direct result of lava flows was reported, a man who suffered a “serious” injury from lava splatter while sitting on the porch of his home, according to theHonolulu Star Advertiser. “I heard the injury was quite bad, serious to his leg,” the newspaper quoted Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno as saying.

More than 20 fissures have opened since the volcano’s latest activity began May 3 and are being tracked.

Yet, with more than 2,000 residents under evacuation, life largely goes on as normal on much of the Big Island. The tourism industry is still in full swing and the island’s airports remain open.


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