Volcanic activity forces evacuations in Hawaii

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Lava has consumed about two dozen homes near the volcano over the last week and about 2,000 people are evacuated from the danger zone.

Janet Snyder, spokeswoman for Hilo Mayor Harry Kim, told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that if the fissures continue opening in the same linear path that previous fissures have been following, Highway 132 could be cut off by lava flows.

He said he wasn't really afraid of the destruction happening around him.

"I had to stop and take a picture", she said. Hawaii County's Civil Defense agency said Monday the gas may cause choking.

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported a fissure opened Saturday just east of the Puna Geothermal Venture energy conversion plant, where steam and hot liquid are brought up through underground wells and the steam feeds a turbine generator to produce electricity.

So far, some 40 homes and other buildings have been destroyed by the lava that has been spewing from the volcano located on the southeastern part of the Big Island.

Hawaii County officials have also warned of toxic gas and urged residents to leave the area as it may cause suffocation.

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We're having continuing ash emissions from the summit crater. Millions of visitors have come to witness the volcano, resulting in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park being the number one visitor attraction in the entire state of Hawaii, and one of only 21 UNESCO World Heritage sites in the U.S. State Farm policies do cover fire from volcanic activity, but each claim has to be looked at individually, according to a State Farm sales executive who spoke with USA Today. The latest fissure is by the Lanipuna Gardens.

The Times said at least 50 volcanoes have been active there since 1760, attracting volcanologist and volcano watchers alike.

In addition to the threat of gas and fissures, there are concerns about what's known as phreatic eruptions.

The lava lake in the crater has been dropping since May 2, which increases the chances for a phreatic explosion.

While the newest eruptions are not threatening any homes or roads, they are creating loud booms and a fear of an explosive eruption at Halemaumau Crater.

But it will be hard to warn residents who may be in the path of such an eruption.

Janet Babb, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory geologist, said the type of explosions, are "notoriously hard to forecast and can occur with little or no warning".

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