Hawaii volcano belches new ash plume as geothermal wells secured from harm

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Kilauea, the volcano on Hawaii's Big Island that's been erupting since May 3, is visible from space - and astronauts have been helping with the emergency response. "They are receiving all available support from government agencies and officials to cope with the volcano activity and carry on with their lives as best as possible", Ige said.

Kilauea's eruption, which has already produced almost two dozen lava-spewing fissures, entered a more violent phase at the weekend, producing larger volumes of molten rock from fissures. The plant has capacity to produce 38 megawatts of electricity, providing roughly one-quarter of the Big Island's daily energy demand.

On Tuesday, officials finished plugging wells that bring up hot liquid and steam that feed a turbine generator. A flammable gas called pentane is used as part of the process, though officials earlier this month removed 50,000 gallons (190,000 liters) of it from the plant to reduce the chance of explosions.

The plant's owner, Ormat Industries, sent a soothing message to investors just a week ago, but now the lava has arrived. The building was owned by the state and was used in geothermal research projects in the early days of the site.

Dramatic photographs show Mount Kilauea erupting fountains of lava in a spectacular display of fire and colour.

Beyond the immediate fire danger from the lava, high levels of sulfur dioxide spewing from the volcano pose a serious threat to children, elderly people, and people with respiratory issues, the United States Geological Survey said.

Blackout not expected in Hawaii even if lava reaches power plant, officials say
Deadly lava is tearing through Hawaii as the Kilauea volcano's violent eruption continues — here are the latest images

The latest back-to-back upheavals of ash from the main summit crater of Kilauea - one before dawn and another several hours later - came on the 21st day of what geologists rank as one of the biggest eruption cycles in a century from one of the world's most active volcanoes.

Hawaii man Darryl Clinton has told how molten rock almost sheared his leg in half when he was hit over the weekend.

About 3 miles (4.8 km) to the east of the plant on the coast, noxious clouds of acid fumes, steam and fine glass-like particles billowed into the sky as lava poured into the ocean from two flows.

Residents have been concerned about hazards if lava flowed over the plant's facilities or if the molten rock heated chemicals at the plant.

The occurrence of new lava vents, now numbering about two dozen, have been accompanied by flurries of earthquakes and periodic eruptions of ash, volcanic rock and toxic gases from the volcano's summit crater.

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