Hawaii Kilauea volcano could soon explode in once-in-a-century eruption

The Turrialba volcano spews smoke and ash in May 2016 in Cartago Costa Rica. Experts say it is the strongest eruption from the volcano in the past six years

The Turrialba volcano spews smoke and ash in May 2016 in Cartago Costa Rica. Experts say it is the strongest eruption from the volcano in the past six years

The volcano has sputtered lava for a week, forcing around 2,000 residents to evacuate, and destroying some two dozen homes and threatening a geothermal plant.

Kilauea - which has been in a near-constant state of eruption for more than 30 years - isn't a volcano that typically erupts explosively in a cloud of ash and spewing lava, the way most people may imagine.

In April, floods on Kauai Island made travelers nervous. More than a dozen fissures oozing lava have opened in the ground.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which includes the crater and surrounding region, announced Wednesday that it will close Friday in anticipation of the possible explosive event.

It could also produce higher levels of toxic gases, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientist-in-charge Tina Neal said.

"Based on the severity of the damage and preliminary assessments, it is clear that recovery will overwhelm state and county resources", the letter said on Friday.

Charles Mandeville, the volcano hazards coordinator for the US Geological Survey, pointed to six "massive" explosions at Kilauea in the past few thousand years. The Puna Geothermal Venture plant had about 50,000 gallons of pentane. "You don't want to be underneath anything that weighs 10 tons when it's coming out at 120 miles per hour".

He would not estimate the likelihood of such an explosion but said internal volcanic conditions are changing in a way that could lead to a blast in about a week.

"One of the things I love about Kilauea is that it's so well-monitored and so well-studied - the more we know, the more we realize we don't know", she said.

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A line of spattering along a lava lake margin of the Kilauea Volcano last month.

Steam and gas rise along the edge of Kilauea's summit crater.

Neal said fresher, hotter lava could emerge because magma has been moving down Kilauea's rift zone toward the area where the volcano is erupting. Those types of big blowouts usually take place in stratovolcanoes, steep-sided, cone-shaped volcanoes where pressure builds up in a central vent until the mountain pops in a dramatic explosion. If Hawaii's Kilauea volcano blows its top in the coming days or weeks, as experts fear, it could hurl ash and boulders the size of refrigerators miles into the air, shutting down airline traffic and endangering lives in all directions, scientists said Thursday. In their latest update this morning, the agency noted that there has been no change in damage to property, however, with the number of destroyed structures remaining at 36 overnight.

Authorities on Thursday completed the removal of highly flammable chemicals from a nearby geothermal power plant that was in the path of creeping lava. It was removed early Thursday.

About 2,000 people have been evacuated from the neighborhoods were lava has oozed from the ground.

He says it would be "very hazardous" if a volcanic vent were to open under the facility where the fuel is stored.

"I'm not too anxious about it because I've lived here so long and I've seen it go through lots of different episodes", Hughes said.

The small town of Volcano, Hawaii, population 2,500, is about 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) from the summit.

"We want to make sure that everybody is still working and people have jobs to go back to", Birch said.

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