Increasing lava flow prompts new evacuations, first injury since eruption

U.S. Geological Survey(PUNA, Hawaii) — New evacuations were underway in Hawaii as active lava flows Saturday evening caused brush fires to spread in Puna, the easternmost district on the Big Island.

As of 6:30 p.m. local time (12:30 a.m. ET on Sunday), officials were unsure how many homes in the region the new evacuation orders would affect, but they were going door to door to check on residents.

Many of the people in the area had already voluntarily evacuated, a spokesperson for the mayor’s office told ABC News.

The mayor’s office also confirmed the first injury since Kilauea erupted on May 3. The spokesperson said a homeowner on Noni Farms Road in the hard-hit town of Pahoa was sitting on his balcony when he was hit with lava splatter. The man was hit on the leg and shattered everything from the shin down to his foot, the spokesperson said. The man was rushed to the hospital for treatment.

The lava erupting from Kilauea can be as hot as 2,000 degrees, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), though it cools by hundreds of degrees once it hits the open air.

Officials were also concerned about two fissures that had merged near MacKenzie State Park and was approaching the ocean, forming what is called “laze.”

“Laze is formed when hot lava hits the ocean, sending hydrochloric acid and steam with fine glass particles into the air,” the Civil Defense Agency warned in a statement Saturday evening. “Health hazards of laze include lung, eye and skin irritation. Be aware that the laze plume travels with the wind and can change direction without warning.”

There have now been 22 different fissures to open in the Puna district since the May 3 eruption triggered the current problems on the island.

The Civil Defense Agency said on Friday night that 40 homes were threatened in Puna by the fast-moving lava spewing from the 20th fissure. Four residents had to be evacuated by county and National Guard helicopters on Friday after they were cut off by the lava flow.

Large plumes of ash erupted from Kilauea on Saturday afternoon, as well. The USGS told ABC News that the plume was another of the ongoing phreatic — or steam-driven — explosions that have been seen over the past few days. The ash cloud on Saturday wasn’t as high as ones earlier in the week.

A larger blast took place at about midnight on Saturday (6 a.m. ET), with the ash threatening five neighborhoods southwest of the volcano. The Civil Defense Agency had warned residents to stay indoors and keep windows closed until the hazard had passed.

An eruption on Thursday sent an ash plume 30,000 feet into the air, according to officials.

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