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Hawaii Volcano Threatening to Shoot Ten-Ton Boulders into the Sky

Along with a cloud of volcanic ash that could travel up to 20 miles from the summit.

by Drew Schwartz
May 10 2018, 9:56pm

Photo by US Geological Survey via Getty Images

It’s been a week since Hawaii's Kilauea volcano erupted, and the destruction hasn't shown signs of stopping. Fissures that opened up in the surrounding neighborhoods sent lava spewing as high as 300 feet in the air, swallowing homes, cars, and roads in molten rock and forcing roughly 2,000 residents to evacuate. And according to a warning from the US Geological Survey Wednesday, the volcano could wreak even more havoc by hurling massive, ten-ton boulders of hot rock from its summit, as the Washington Post reported.

Ever since Thursday's initial blast, the "lava lake" in Kilauea's center has been draining, as molten rock flows into and around Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens via underground streams. According to the USGS, if the lake keeps dropping, it could hit groundwater within weeks—creating a buildup of steam pressure that might cause the volcano to explode, shooting ash, rocks, and boulders as far as 20 miles away.

"If an explosion happens, there’s a risk at all scales," USGS volcanologist Donald Swanson told the Post. "If you’re near the crater, within half a mile, you could be subject to ballistic blocks weighing as much as ten or 12 tons.”

According to Swanson, smaller rocks could fly miles from the volcano's summit, and a cloud of ash might fly "from the sky like snow."

Meanwhile, new fissures were continuing to crop up on the Big Island, with one cracking open a half-mile from a geothermal power plant on Wednesday, Reuters reported. The plant contains thousands of gallons of flammable chemicals, which—if they catch fire—could spark an explosion with a blast radius of up to a mile. On Wednesday, Hawaii governor David Ige issued an emergency proclamation to make sure that doesn't happen.

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