The Hawaii Volcano Observatory said residents of the Big Island now faced a fresh threat, after the first front of lava flow entered the ocean on Sunday.
Residents have been warned to stay far away from any ocean plume, as the resulting laze hazard can cause severe lung, eye and skin damage. Laze is what forms when hot lava hits the ocean, sending hydrochloric acid and steam with fine glass particles into the air.
Critically the laze hazard can change direction quite quickly, depending on the direction of the wind. Naturally, inhalation can be fatal.
There are two active flows currently being monitored by the observatory. The first flow – which has now entered the ocean – crossed Highway 137 at the 13-mile marker.
The second flow is approximately 400m from Highway 137. Highway 137 is closed between Kamaili Road and Pohoiki Road. Kamaili Road is closed between Highway 130 and Highway 137. All locals have been told to stay out of the area.
In the interim, it has been confirmed that laze hazard is not the only danger at this juncture, after a homeowner was hit by lava spatter this weekend. The spatter hit him on the shin and shattered his leg.
Lava spatter can weigh as much as a refrigerator and even small pieces can kill. That puts the severity of the current circumstances into harsh perspective.