Published On: Sun, May 6th, 2018

Volcano eruption prompts warning about exposure to sulfur dioxide

HONOLULU — Hawaii’s most active volcano, Kilauea, is erupting with a fury, and dangerous levels of sulfur dioxide gas are being reported. Molten lava and ash were thrown hundreds of feet into the air and onto the streets of the mountainside community near Hilo, and residents under a mandatory evacuation tried to outrun the volcano’s flow.

The eruption started after hundreds of small quakes hit the area earlier in the week. Residents began documenting the growing cracks on the streets in front of their house.

On Friday, the U.S. Geological Survey said a 6.9-magnitude earthquake struck the island shortly after a 5.4-magnitude quake hit earlier in the day.  

Lava could be seen bubbling up on the streets in the community of Leilani Estates, 25 miles east of the volcano. Drone footage showed two houses on fire and a red line of lava snaking through trees several miles away.

Residents on the Big Island are now being warned about the exposure to high levels of sulfur dioxide from the lava, a gas that can cause intense coughing and burning throats. Volcano expert Paul Davis says the gas occurs during the melting process.

“It’s sort of like you’ve injected ammonia into all your, your nose, into your breathing area, into your throat,” Davis said.

Hawaii has five active volcanoes, but Kilauea is the biggest. It has been in a constant state of eruption since 1983, and scientists say there is no way to predict how long this eruption will last.

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