Air quality has diminished in Hawaiian neighborhoods as molten lava from the Kilauea volcano sped up Saturday on an unpredictable path with no clear signs of stopping.
So far, 22 lava vents have opened over the two weeks since magma from the volcano shot into neighborhoods in the southern area of the Big Island.
Lava in one vent near the Leilani Estates subdivision was advancing at 300 to 400 yards per hour early Saturday, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The vent has diminished air quality in parts of the Puna district in the southeast corner of the island because of plumes of poisonous gases emitted from the lava and burning vegetation.
A new explosion was reported late Friday that sent ash rocketing up 10,000 feet in the air. The volcano is far enough from homes and businesses that ash has had little effect on life on Hawaii's Big Island.
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The unpredictable path of lava led to one stream crossing a street and threatening a new area east of Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens, where 40 structures, including 26 homes, have been destroyed over the last two weeks.
The lava closed in on 40 homes in the rural area and trapped at least four people who were evacuated by county and National Guard helicopters, according to the Associated Press.
Kilauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes, has been erupting on and off for hundreds of thousands of years and has been has been erupting continuously since 1983 with only occasional pauses of quiet activity. The latest episode began May 3.
More explosive eruptions from the summit are still possible and scientists don't know when they will stop.
“We have no way of knowing whether this is really the beginning or toward the end of this eruption,” said Tom Shea, a volcanologist at the University of Hawaii, told the AP. “We’re kind of all right now in this world of uncertainty.”
The area affected by lava and ash is small compared to the Big Island, which is about 4,000 square miles. Most of the Big Island and the rest of the state’s island chain are unaffected by the volcanic activity on Kilauea.
Officials have been constantly reminding potential visitors that although the volcano looks mean, the rest of the state is safe. Even on the Big Island, most tourist activities are still available and businesses are open.