Lava, ash spew from Hawaii's Kilauea volcano

VOLCANO UPDATE, May 14, 7:25 AM: New Fissure Emerges

The Latest: Hawaii volcano's sulfur dioxide threatens health

As if the catastrophic, home-devouring lava weren't bad enough, now residents have to worry about choking on sulfur dioxide. The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reports rock falls and gas explosions within Halemaumau Crater have caused an ash plume which is carrying ash downstream across the Kau District.

Officials warned residents to leave the area and to get medical attention if they're affected by the gas.

The air quality there has been evaluated as a "condition red", which means the air could pose an immediate danger, the Civil Defense Agency said in a post on Monday. "This is a serious situation that affects the entire exposed population". There are an estimated 2,000 residents in the southeast area of Hawaii's Big Island who would be potentially trapped by the closure.

Kilauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes, has been spitting lava since 10 days. TIMELAPSE: Lava from Hawaii volcano swallows auto The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported the fissures opened 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.

CNN's Stephanie Elam said her heart started pounding as she approached one fissure. The number of structures destroyed is at least 37. and counting. There is no indication of when the eruption might stop, or how far the lava might spread.

More news: Tornado watch issued for area

Those are steam-driven explosions that occur when water beneath the ground or on the surface is heated by magma, lava, hot rocks, or new volcanic deposits, the US Geological Survey says.

"From time to time during this long-lived eruption, the eruption site has switched location, causing fissure eruptions in different places on the rift zone". No deaths or major injuries have been reported since Kilauea, which has been in a state of almost constant eruption since 1983, began a series of major explosions early this month.

Ash and volcanic smog, or so-called vog, rose up to 12,000 feet (3,657 meters) above Kilauea's crater and floated southwest, covering cars on Highway 11 with grey dust and sparking an "unhealthy air" advisory in the community of Pahala, 18 miles (29km) from the summit.

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

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