World

Hawaii's Kilauea volcano belches another plume of ash

As an explosive eruption on the Kilauea volcano sent another plume of ash high into the air, and as more residents were evacuated from a nearby subdivision, officials at the U.S. Geological Survey warned against toasting marshmallows over the Hawaiian volcano's vents.

Don't try to roast marshmallows over volcanic vents, officials warn

Onlookers stand on a lava flow to watch lava gush out of a fissure, in the Leilani Estates near Pahoa, Hawaii, on Sunday. (Marco Garcia/Reuters)

As an explosive eruption on the Kilauea volcano sent another plume of ash high into the air, and as more residents were evacuated from a nearby subdivision, officials at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) warned against toasting marshmallows over the Hawaiian volcano's vents. 

The USGS said early Tuesday an eruption had sent ash 4,500 metres into the air, warning that the ash was drifting northwest and liable to affect anyone in the summit area.

The wind is also carrying thin strands of volcanic glass fibres that could injure eyes and lungs, officials said.  

The eruption came hours after Hawaii County officials knocked on doors on several streets in the Leilani Estates subdivision alerting residents to flee fast-moving lava flowing from one of the world's most active volcanos. Hundreds have left the area since more intense eruptions began on May 3.

Multiple fissures continue to spew hot lava flows, which have blocked roads and damaged dozens of buildings on Hawaii's Big Island.

One fountain of lava rose more than 60 metres at times on Monday, the USGS said.

A news reporter takes pictures of the Kilauea lava flow that crossed Pohoiki Road near Highway 132, near Pahoa on Monday.. (Marco Garcia/Reuters)

Odd questions on Twitter

The USGS has also been taking questions and offering safety advice on Twitter — putting down speculation that marshmallows could be roasted over volcanic vents and that a catastrophic eruption was brewing in the continental U.S. 

"Erm… we're going to have to say no, that's not safe," the agency said when asked about the marshmallows, noting they would likely also taste bad thanks to the noxious gases spewing from the vents. 

The agency has also been taking a lot of what it deemed "doomsday" questions about the very large volcano under Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. By late Monday, signs of irritation had crept into the Twitter feed. 

"We'll say it again: Yellowstone is NOT GOING TO ERUPT," the agency wrote in response to one of many questions about recent geyser activity.

"It is one of the best-monitored volcanoes in the world, and we would see signs of volcanic activity long before they became dangerous." 

Back in Hawaii, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre on Oahu said a 4.4 magnitude earthquake shook the Hilina region of the volcano, southwest of the estates, on Monday. Officials said it wasn't strong enough to generate a tsunami.

Lava has oozed over two wells at the Puna geothermal power plant, but county officials said the flow stopped. Officials said there was no release of any dangerous hydrogen sulfide gas after lava crept over the plugged wells.

Residents fear the wells may be explosive. Officials have said the power plant is safe, but lava has never engulfed a geothermal plant anywhere in the world, creating a measure of uncertainty.

As of Friday, lava had destroyed 82 structures, including 37 homes. About 2,000 people have been ordered to leave the area since Kilauea began erupting on May 3.

So far, no deaths have been blamed on the eruption, though a man's leg was shattered when he was hit by a spatter of super-dense lava.

With files from CBC News and Reuters