Hawaii residents were alerted on Thursday to rising levels of toxic gas from volcanic fissures and geologists warned that new areas east of the erupting Kilauea volcano may be at risk to lava bursting from the ground.
Hawaii County authorities sent a text message to residents in the southeast corner of the Big Island that a wind change would bring rising levels of sulfur dioxide gas, which is fatal if inhaled in large quantities.
“Due to decreasing tradewinds, residents are advised to monitor their sensitivity to increased levels of SO2,” the text message sent at 9.22 a.m. said.
Hawaii’s governor has warned that mass evacuations may be needed as more fissures open and spew lava and gas in semi-rural residential areas on the east flank of the volcano.
Authorities on Thursday completed the removal of highly flammable chemicals from a nearby power plant in the path of lava.
Geologists said Kilauea may be entering a phase of explosive eruptions not seen in nearly a century that could hurl “ballistic blocks” weighing up to 12 tons for half a mile (800 meters), shoot pebble-sized projectiles for miles and dust downwind towns with volcanic ash and smog.