Lava reaches ocean in Hawaii, creating toxic cloud over island

O’ahu where Honolulu is located is roughly as far from the eruption as Boston is from New York

A volcano that is oozing, spewing and exploding on Hawaii's Big Island has gotten more hazardous, sending rivers of molten rock pouring into the ocean Sunday and launching lava skyward that caused the first major injury.

Hawaii County's Civil Defense (HCCD) agency published bulletins on Sunday asking residents living to the east of the summit to beware of "laze"-a combination of toxic hydrochloric acid fumes, steam and fine volcanic glass-like particles, which is formed when hot lava hits the ocean". Laze can cause irritations of the skin, eyes and lungs, and those suffering from asthma or emphysema may be particularly vulnerable.

Authorities warn that the plume could shift direction if the winds change.

The rate of sulfur dioxide gas shooting from the ground fissures tripled, leading Hawaii County to repeat warnings about air quality. The volcanic activity, which has been going on for more than two weeks, has burned around 40 structures, including two dozen homes.

Carolyn Parcheta, a Hawaiian volcano observatory geologist said: "I think we are moving into phase two".

Hawaii officials have reported the first serious injury related to the erupting Kilauea volcano after a man, only identified as a homeowner on Noni Farms Road, had his leg shattered from his shin to his foot on Saturday when he was hit by lava spatter, according to Reuters. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester Lava flows into the Pacific Ocean southeast of Pahoa during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., May 20, 2018.

Early on Monday (Tuesday NZT), a small eruption occurred at the Kilauea summit, producing an ash plume that reached about 2100m.

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The gas clouds initially appear on the shoreline, but trade winds on Sunday carried plumes about 15 miles (24 kilometres) to the southwest.

Bush fires have also been reported, Johnson said, adding smoke to the airborne health hazards.

WATCH: There have been some unsafe developments on Hawaii's Big Island over the weekend, as lava from the Mount Kilauea volcano has blocked a major highway. That lava is flowing into the water, leading to a risky concoction called laze. "The volcano puts the Big Island highest in the nation for SO2 (sulfur dioxide) values". Some 2,000 people have evacuated their homes, including 300 who were staying in shelters.

In recent days, the lava began to move more quickly and emerge from the ground in greater volume. But some residents are defying the evacuation orders.

Scientists say it's still not known when Kilauea will run its course and life on the island, can return to normal.

"We've seen the clearing out of the system", she said.

Hawaii tourism officials have stressed that most of the Big Island remains unaffected by the eruption and is open for business.

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