Emergency Evacuation Conditions Continue in Hawai'i

  May 9, 2018

By Naomi Millán

Though lava flow has currently ceased from the 12 fissures caused by the recent Kilauea volcano eruption, up to sixty thousand gallons of fuel stored at a geothermal facility in the affected region of Hawai'i's Big Island will be removed, according to the Office of Mayor Harry Kim.

Puna Geothermal Venture is located about a mile from one of the fissures, causing concerns in the community over an explosion risk as the fuel, pentane, is highly flammable.

To date, the lava flow has destroyed 35 structures, most of them residences. The fissures continue to emit high levels of sulfur dioxide gas, and Leilani Estates remains under a state of evacuation.

Some facilities, such as the Hilo Downtown Post Office, banks, and several schools, temporarily closed for structural evaluation after 1,301 earthquakes shook the region, including a 6.9 magnitude quake on Friday May 4. Several have reopened.

Contrary to popular narratives, there is nothing that can be easily done to protect facilities from lava. Explosives don't work. Diversion channels might work, but the cost outweighs the direct lava damage costs. One successful attempt to stop lava involved spraying a slow-moving lava flow with 1.5 billion gallons of ice-cold seawater for five months straight in 1973 in Iceland.

This Quick Read was submitted by Naomi Millán, senior editor, Building Operating Management.


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