Toxic gas threatens Hawaii residents as lava eruptions destroy five homes

Garnett said she left the animals water but anxious they might die from the poison gases that often accompany this kind of lava flow.

Lava flows from the volcano, considered one of 5 on the island, have coated 48 sq. miles, in keeping with the U.S. Geological Survey.

Officials say almost 2,000 people on Hawaii's Big Island have been evacuated from homes after lava eruptions destroyed five houses. Volcanic eruptions can release potentially unsafe sulfur dioxide - and fire department personnel have detected high levels of the gas in the evacuation area, the civil defense agency said.

Officials say 21 homes have now been destroyed in Hawaii by lava flowing from Kilauea volcano, based on an aerial survey by the fire department.

Hawaiian Volcano Observatory spokeswoman Janet Babb said the earthquakes reflected the volcano adjusting to the shifting magma.

Portions of roads have been overtaken by the lava, and a few homes have been destroyed as well.

Exposure to high levels can be life-threatening, according to the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

"The area where lava is coming to the surface is very far from resort areas", said George Szigeti, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority. He monitored remote cameras set up in his home and said his home was still intact.

Puu Oo's 1983 eruption resulted in lava fountains hovering over 1,500 ft excessive.

When the larger quake followed, he said he felt strong shaking in Hilo, the island's largest city that is roughly 45 minutes from the rural Puna area.

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Hawaii Electric Light said the jolt knocked out power to about 14,400 customers, but electricity was restored about two hours later.

"Those remaining in Leilani and Lanipuna Gardens and along Pohoiki Road need to prepare to leave because if the winds change, you could be gassed", Hawaii County Council member Eileen O'Hara said in a Facebook post.

"I have no idea how soon we can get back", Leilani Estates resident Todd Corrigan told the AP.

Brad Stanfill said the lava was more than 3 miles (5 kilometers) from his house but he was not allowed in because of a mandatory evacuation order.

What's more, in the 50th state, as in many parts of the world with volcanoes, the benefits - rich soils for agriculture, the presence of mineral deposits and geothermal energy - make staying close to volcanoes attractive.

Residents of Leilani Estates are still being allowed to briefly return to gather medicines, pets and other essentials. It predominantly erupts basaltic lava in effusive eruptions that mostly flow into the ocean but occasionally experiences explosive eruptions.

The crater floor began to collapse Monday, triggering earthquakes and pushing the lava into new underground chambers.

By Sunday morning on Hawaii, the overall number of total cracks that have at one point spewed or sputtered lava had risen to 10.

Some officials said that the noxious fumes from the fissures was likely the biggest threat to public health, even as the island continues to be covered in lava.

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