Natural disasters cause a wake of destruction and volcano eruptions are no exception. The Kilauea volcano on the big island of Hawaii first erupted earlier this month on May 3, opening fissures in the ground that oozed hot lava, destroying homes, roads and everything in its path. Now, it’s claimed it’s first major civilian injury.
The volcano erupted twice over the weekend, spewing sulfur dioxide nearly 10,000 feet into the air, with lava pushing across the ground at a speed of one half of a mile an hour. On Sunday morning local time, lava flowed over highway 137 which was the escape route for certain coastal residents. One man was standing on his third-floor balcony as lava flowed nearby. The lava spatter landed on his leg and shattered it from his foot to his shin. The injury was confirmed by the mayor’s office through spokesperson Janet Snyders.
Snyders also explained that lava spatters “can weigh as much as a refrigerator and even small pieces of spatter can kill.” Lava erupting from an active volcano can reach up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The lava flowed into the ocean around midnight last night, creating the phenomenon known as laze, which is when hot lava and ocean water mix to send volcanic glass particles and hydrochloric acid shooting up into the air. Laze has been known to cause eye, skin and lung irritation, and claimed two lives back in 2000.
Officials are attempting to clear a road blocked by lava back in 2014, to serve as an alternate escape route, by bulldozing nearly a mile of hardened lava. Most hardened lava on the island is not removed after it cools. Since the first eruption, the volcano has caused up to 2,000 small earthquakes, including 5.0 and 4.9 magnitude strikes at the volcano summit.
As the lava continues to move, more mandatory evacuations will be into effect, and residents are encouraged to leave, as there will be no help available when conditions become more dangerous. Evacuation routes could be cut off and residents are being told to stay away from anywhere the lava could meet the ocean.