The latest danger from the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii are mysterious blue flames that are burning methane gas. It’s the latest natural phenomena being experienced in what some are calling “hell on earth.”
Nighttime photos released on Wednesday by the US Geological Survey show the flames spouting from cracks in the pavement in the Leilani Estates neighborhood. The volcano has been gushing lava on the big island of Hawaii for the past three weeks.
The volcano produces methane when hot lava buries and burns plants and trees.
“The methane gas will flow through the ground, through the cracks that are already existing, and will come up wherever there’s a place for them to come up,” said Wendy Stovall, a scientists with the US Geological Survey.
Methane Gas Seeps Through Cracks
The methane gas seeps through cracks and can cause explosions when it’s ignited while trapped underground. These blasts can toss blocks several feet away, Stovall said.
Hawaii County has ordered the evacuation of about 2,000 people from Leilani Estates and surrounding neighborhoods since the eruption began on May 3.
The volcano has opened more than 20 vents in the ground. They are releasing lava, sulfur dioxide and steam. The lava has been cascading down the flank of the volcano and into the ocean miles away.
The eruption has destroyed 50 buildings, including about two dozen homes. One person was seriously injured after being hit by a flying piece of lava.
On the bright side, the lava from one of the vents has now formed a wall that is helping to protect a nearby geothermal plant.
Officials shut down Puna Geothermal shortly after the current eruption began. On Tuesday, officials finished plugging wells that bring up hot liquid and steam to feed a turbine generator. Earlier this month they removed a flammable gas called pentane from the plant to reduce the chance of explosions.