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Hawaii's Destructive Volcano Just Shattered a Man's Leg with Spattering Lava

Residents are being airlifted from their homes as the eruption grows even more catastrophic.

by Drew Schwartz
May 21 2018, 5:06pm

Photo via the USGS

More than two weeks after Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano blew, sending lava spewing into residential neighborhoods, the destruction is only getting worse. Rivers of molten rock are swallowing cars, homes, and everything else in their path as new fissures continue to crack open, and though thousands of people on the Big Island have managed to evacuate, it now looks like the seemingly never-ending stream of molten lava has claimed its first injury.

According to Hawaii News Now, a man was hit with spattering lava that shot up to the third-floor balcony of his house near the volcano, "shattering" his shin, according to Hawaii County officials. Spokeswoman Janet Snyder told Reuters that lava spatters, like the one that hit the resident, "can weigh as much as a refrigerator, and even small pieces of spatter can kill." Luckily, the man was rushed to the hospital, though it's not clear what his condition is now.

Meanwhile, four people were airlifted to safety Friday as lava closed in on their homes. It's spewing from at least 22 fissures on the Big Island's east coast, and it's already claimed at least 44 structures—houses, mostly—in Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens, two subdivisions near the volcano.

On Saturday, a wall of lava barreling toward the coast hit the ocean, pouring into the water and shooting up massive plumes of something called "laze": a combination of steam, hydrochloric acid (which burns through skin), and tiny particles of glass, the Washington Post reports. Like smoke, the massive, terrifying cloud "travels with the wind and can change direction without warning," according to a Hawaii County alert warning residents to avoid the laze.

The scene on Hawaii's Big Island is, in short, a nightmare—and scientists don't know how long the destruction will continue. Tina Neal, the head of the US Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, told Hawaii News Now there's no way to tell when the spill of lava might let up. After a massive explosion shot boulders and ash miles into the air last week, and as new fissures send more lava gushing into residential areas each day, it looks like it'll be awhile before residents can even think about going home.

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