US & Canada

Hawaii volcano lava flows into power plant site

Aerial view of lava fissure near power plant Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The lava flows are encroaching on the Puna Geothermal Venture plant on Hawaii's Big Island

Lava from the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii has crept towards a geothermal power plant, prompting workers to shut down facilities amid fears of deadly gases.

Workers removed flammable substances and the plant's deep underground wells have been filled with cold water. They will be plugged with iron on Tuesday.

If lava flows into the wells before they are plugged, it could release lethal hydrogen sulphide gas.

The slow-moving lava entered the plant site on Monday, but has since stalled.

Image copyright USGS
Image caption Lava spews out of fissures near the lower east rift zone on Monday

"It's not easy to predict where it's going to go, and when it's going to get there," Tom Travis from Hawaii Emergency Management told CBS News.

County officials said the lava was around 900ft (274m) from the closest well on Monday.

In the worst-case scenario, Mr Travis said there would be "a steam release, many chemicals, but primarily hydrogen sulphide, a very deadly gas".

Emergency workers at the plant transported 60,000 gallons of highly flammable pentane gas out of the facility as a precaution.

Image copyright USGS
Image caption Lava flowing southward from Kilauea
Image copyright USGS
Image caption Geologists reported lava fountains as high as 164ft (50m) on Monday

Located on the Lower East Rift Zone of the Kilauea volcano, the Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV) plant generates around 30% of the island's electrical power by bringing steam from the underground wells into a turbine generator.

The plant's wells run a mile deep in some areas.

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Media captionLava flow hits the sea creating toxic laze, or vog, on Kilauea
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The toxic "laze" plumes created when lava enters the ocean can cause irritation and breathing difficulties, officials say

Kilauea erupted at the beginning of May and the situation for residents has steadily been worsening.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption Earlier this month, this fast-moving flow in the Pahoe area consumed a home, seen here burning in the top left

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