Hawaii faces new threat from volcano - laze

A steam plume rising as lava (centre) enters the Pacific Ocean, after flowing to the water from a Kilauea volcano fissure, on Hawaii's Big Island on Sunday. Officials are concerned that "laze", a potentially dangerous product formed when hot lava hit
A steam plume rising as lava (centre) enters the Pacific Ocean, after flowing to the water from a Kilauea volcano fissure, on Hawaii's Big Island on Sunday. Officials are concerned that "laze", a potentially dangerous product formed when hot lava hits cool ocean water, will pose a new threat to the public.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

PAHOA (Hawaii) • Hawaii is facing a new hazard as lava flows from Kilauea's volcanic eruption could produce clouds of acid fumes, steam and glass-like particles as they reach the Pacific.

Civil defence notices cautioned the public to beware of caustic plumes of "laze", formed from two streams of hot lava pouring into the sea after cutting across Highway 137 on the south coast of Hawaii's Big Island late on Saturday and early Sunday.

The bulletins also warned that reports of toxic sulphur dioxide gas being vented from various points around the volcano had tripled, urging residents to "take action necessary to limit further exposure".

Laze - a term combining the words "lava" and haze" - is a mix of hydrochloric acid fumes, steam and fine volcanic glass specks created when erupting lava, which can reach 1,093 deg C, reacts with sea water, Hawaii County Civil Defence said in a statement.

"Be aware of the laze hazard and stay away from any ocean plume," the agency said, warning that potential hazards include lung damage, as well as eye and skin irritation.

Meanwhile, officials at the Hawaii Volcano Authority have said hotter and more viscous lava could be on the way.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 22, 2018, with the headline 'Hawaii faces new threat from volcano - laze'. Print Edition | Subscribe