Lava flow torches warehouse at Hawaii geothermal plant

HONOLULU, May 22 (Reuters) - A new lava flow from Hawaii's erupting Kilauea volcano edged towards a geothermal power plant on Tuesday after destroying a warehouse at the facility, after the volcano entered a more violent phase at the weekend.

Workers at the now closed Puna Geothermal Venture, which provided around 25 percent of electricity on Hawaii's Big Island, scrambled to cap the last of three deep wells to reduce the risks of an uncontrolled release of toxic gases should they be inundated by lava.

The race at the site marked the latest challenge facing authorities during what geologists call an unprecedented, simultaneous eruption at Kilauea's summit and from giant volcanic cracks or fissures 25 miles down its eastern flank.

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Kilauea volcano erupts, sparking evacuations in Hawaii
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Kilauea volcano erupts, sparking evacuations in Hawaii
PAHOA, HI - MAY 13: Lava and smoke explodes from Fissure 17 at Leilani Estates in the aftermath of eruptions from the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island, on May 13, 2018 in Pahoa, Hawaii. The U.S. Geological Survey said a recent lowering of the lava lake at the volcano's Halemaumau crater �as raised the potential for explosive eruptions�at the volcano. Authorities have confirmed a 16th lava fissure opened in the vicinity of Pahoa. (Photo by Andrew Richard Hara/Ena Media Hawaii/Getty Images)
HAWAII, USA - MAY 17: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY MANDATORY CREDIT - 'USGS / HANDOUT' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) Ash plume rises following a massive volcano eruption on Kilauea volcano in Hawaii, United States on May 17, 2018. Lava is spewing more than 60 metres into the air and spread around 36,000 square metres. (Photo by USGS / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
HAWAII, USA - MAY 17: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY MANDATORY CREDIT - 'USGS / HANDOUT' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) Ash plume rises from forest following a massive volcano eruption on Kilauea volcano in Hawaii, United States on May 17, 2018. Lava is spewing more than 60 metres into the air and spread around 36,000 square metres. (Photo by USGS / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
HAWAII, USA - MAY 17: (----EDITORIAL USE ONLY MANDATORY CREDIT - 'USGS / HANDOUT' - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS----) Ash plume rises following a massive volcano eruption on Kilauea volcano in Hawaii, United States on May 17, 2018. Lava is spewing more than 60 metres into the air and spread around 36,000 square metres. (Photo by USGS / Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
PAHOA, HI - MAY 15: Lava from active fissures illuminates volcanic gases from the Kilauea volcano amidst stars on Hawaii's Big Island on May 15, 2018 in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii. The U.S. Geological Survey said a recent lowering of the lava lake at the volcano's Halemaumau crater 'has raised the potential for explosive eruptions' at the volcano. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
People watch as ash erupt from the Halemaumau crater near the community of Volcano during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., May 15, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
PAHOA, HI - MAY 15: Plants grow in cracks on a hardened lava flow from the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island on May 15, 2018 in Pahoa, Hawaii. The section of the hardened lava flow marks the point where lava stopped flowing towards the town in 2014, saving the town from destruction. The U.S. Geological Survey said a recent lowering of the lava lake at the volcano's Halemaumau crater �as raised the potential for explosive eruptions�at the volcano. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Lava erupts from a fissure east of the Leilani Estates subdivision during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., May 13, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
PAHOA, HI - MAY 6: In this handout photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, a lava flow moves on Makamae Street after the eruption of Hawaii's Kilauea volcano on May 6, 2018 in the Leilani Estates subdivision near Pahoa, Hawaii. The governor of Hawaii has declared a local state of emergency near the Mount Kilauea volcano after it erupted following a 5.0-magnitude earthquake, forcing the evacuation of nearly 1,700 residents. (Photo by U.S. Geological Survey via Getty Images)
Kilauea volcano's summit lava lake shows a significant drop of roughly 220 metres below the crater rim in this wide angle camera view showing the entire north portion of the Overlook crater in Hawaii, U.S. May 6, 2018. Picture taken on May 6, 2018. USGS/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.
PAHOA, HI - MAY 06: A plume of volcanic gas mixed with smoke from fires caused by lava rises (C) amidst clouds in the Leilani Estates neighborhood in the aftermath of eruptions from the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island on May 6, 2018 in Pahoa, Hawaii. A magnitude 6.9 earthquake struck the island May 4. The volcano has spewed lava and high levels of sulfur dioxide gas into communities, leading officials to order 1,700 to evacuate. Officials have confirmed 26 homes have now been destroyed by lava in Leilani Estates. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
PAHOA, HI - MAY 3: In this handout photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, a fissure produces lava after the eruption of Hawaii's Kilauea volcano on May 3, 2018 in the Leilani Estates subdivision near Pahoa, Hawaii. The governor of Hawaii has declared a local state of emergency near the Mount Kilauea volcano after it erupted following a 5.0-magnitude earthquake, forcing the evacuation of nearly 1,700 residents. (Photo by U.S. Geological Survey via Getty Images)
A new fissure spraying lava fountains as high as about 230 feet (70 m), according to United States Geological Survey, is shown from Luana Street in Leilani Estates subdivision on Kilauea Volcano's lower East Rift Zone in Hawaii, U.S., May 5, 2018. Photo taken May 5, 2018. US Geological Survey/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK, HI - MAY 3: In this handout photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, ash sprews from the Puu Oo crater on Hawaii's Kilauea volcano on May 3, 2018 in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The governor of Hawaii has declared a local state of emergency near the Mount Kilauea volcano after it erupted following a 5.0-magnitude earthquake, forcing the evacuation of nearly 1,700 residents. (Photo by U.S. Geological Survey via Getty Images)
A fissure on Leilani and Kaupili Streets in the Leilani Estates subdivision caused by an eruption of the Kilauea Volcano is shown following a series of earthquakes, in Hawaii, U.S. on May 4, 2018. Picture taken on May 4, 2018. USGS/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.
HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK, HI - MAY 3: In this handout photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, a fissure forms on the west flank of the Puu Oo crater on Hawaii's Kilauea volcano on May 3, 2018 in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The governor of Hawaii has declared a local state of emergency near the Mount Kilauea volcano after it erupted following a 5.0-magnitude earthquake, forcing the evacuation of nearly 1,700 residents. (Photo by U.S. Geological Survey via Getty Images)
PAHOA, HI - MAY 3: In this handout photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, a fissure produces lava after the eruption of Hawaii's Kilauea volcano on May 3, 2018 in the Leilani Estates subdivision near Pahoa, Hawaii. The governor of Hawaii has declared a local state of emergency near the Mount Kilauea volcano after it erupted following a 5.0-magnitude earthquake, forcing the evacuation of nearly 1,700 residents. (Photo by U.S. Geological Survey via Getty Images)
HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK, HI - MAY 3: In this handout photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, ash sprews from the Puu Oo crater on Hawaii's Kilauea volcano on May 3, 2018 in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The governor of Hawaii has declared a local state of emergency near the Mount Kilauea volcano after it erupted following a 5.0-magnitude earthquake, forcing the evacuation of nearly 1,700 residents. (Photo by U.S. Geological Survey via Getty Images)
A fissure on Leilani and Kaupili Streets in the Leilani Estates subdivision caused by an eruption of the Kilauea Volcano is shown following a series of earthquakes, in Hawaii, U.S. on May 4, 2018. Picture taken on May 4, 2018. USGS/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. THIS PICTURE WAS PROCESSED BY REUTERS TO ENHANCE QUALITY. AN UNPROCESSED VERSION HAS BEEN PROVIDED SEPARATELY
Lava advances along a street near a fissure in Leilani Estates, on Kilauea Volcano's lower East Rift Zone, Hawaii, the U.S., May 5, 2018. U.S. Geological Survey/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Signs hang in the entrance of an evacuation center in Pahoa available to residents of the Puna communities of Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens, home to about 1,700 people, who were forced to leave their homes after the Kilauea Volcano, one of five on the island, erupted on Thursday after a series of earthquakes over the last couple of days, in Hawaii, U.S., May 4, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
PAHOA, HI - MAY 3: In this handout photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, a fissure about 150m long produces lava after the eruption of Hawaii's Kilauea volcano on May 3, 2018 in the Leilani Estates subdivision near Pahoa, Hawaii. The governor of Hawaii has declared a local state of emergency near the Mount Kilauea volcano after it erupted following a 5.0-magnitude earthquake, forcing the evacuation of nearly 1,700 residents. (Photo by U.S. Geological Survey via Getty Images)
HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK, HI - MAY 3: In this handout photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, ash sprews from the Puu Oo crater on Hawaii's Kilauea volcano on May 3, 2018 in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The governor of Hawaii has declared a local state of emergency near the Mount Kilauea volcano after it erupted following a 5.0-magnitude earthquake, forcing the evacuation of nearly 1,700 residents. (Photo by U.S. Geological Survey via Getty Images)
A dog waits for its owner to return at a pet-friendly evacuation center in Pahoa available to residents of the Puna communities of Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens who were forced to leave their homes after the Kilauea Volcano erupted on Thursday after a series of earthquakes over the last couple of days, in Hawaii, U.S., May 4, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
Steam cracks are shown before a fissure opened on Kaupili Street in the Leilani Estates subdivision caused by an eruption of the Kilauea Volcano is shown following a series of earthquakes, in Hawaii, U.S. on May 4, 2018. Picture taken on May 4, 2018. USGS/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Lava advances along a street near a fissure in Leilani Estates, on Kilauea Volcano's lower East Rift Zone, Hawaii, the U.S., May 5, 2018. U.S. Geological Survey/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
A fissure on Leilani and Kaupili Streets in the Leilani Estates subdivision caused by an eruption of the Kilauea Volcano is shown following a series of earthquakes, in Hawaii, U.S. on May 4, 2018. Picture taken on May 4, 2018. USGS/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. THIS PICTURE WAS PROCESSED BY REUTERS TO ENHANCE QUALITY. AN UNPROCESSED VERSION HAS BEEN PROVIDED SEPARATELY
A crack opens up on Pohoiki Road, Lava near Leilani Estates, on Kilauea Volcano's lower East Rift Zone, Hawaii, the U.S., May 5, 2018. U.S. Geological Survey/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. IT IS DISTRIBUTED, EXACTLY AS RECEIVED BY REUTERS, AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS
An HVO geologist collects samples of spatter by fissure 10 from the Kilauea volcano, in the Leilani Estates in Hawaii, U.S. May 6, 2018. Picture taken on May 6, 2018. USGS/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.
USGS scientists monitor Kilauea volcano's eruption spatter on the roads in the Leilani Estates in Hawaii, U.S. May 6, 2018. Picture taken on May 6, 2018. USGS/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY.
PAHOA, HI - MAY 06: A structure burns as lava from volcanic fissures slowly advances in the Leilani Estates neighborhood in the aftermath of eruptions from the the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island on May 6, 2018 in Pahoa, Hawaii. A magnitude 6.9 earthquake struck the island May 4. The volcano has spewed lava and high levels of sulfur gas into communities, leading officials to order 1,700 to evacuate. Officials have confirmed 26 homes have now been destroyed by lava in Leilani Estates. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Lava erupts from a fissure on the outskirts of Pahoa during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., May 14, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Smoke and lava erupt from a fissure near a home on the outskirts of Pahoa during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., May 14, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Gases rise from a fissure on the outskirts of Pahoa during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., May 14, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
Lava erupts from a fissure on the outskirts of Pahoa during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., May 14, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
Lava erupts from a fissure on the outskirts of Pahoa during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., May 14, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
Smoke and lava erupt from a fissure near a home on the outskirts of Pahoa during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., May 14, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
Cracks are visible along a road in the Leilani Estates subdivision during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., May 13, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
A crack is seen in a road in the Leilani Estates subdivision during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., May 13, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
Volcanic gases rise from the ground in the Leilani Estates subdivision during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., May 13, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
A bouquet and a lei rest on a lava flow in the Leilani Estates subdivision during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., May 13, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
A driver steers through volcanic gasses in the Leilani Estates subdivision during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., May 13, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
Lava erupts from a fissure east of the Leilani Estates subdivision during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., May 12, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
Bystanders watch lava erupt from a fissure east of the Leilani Estates subdivision during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano, U.S., May 12, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester
Lava flows downhill, in this image from a helicopter overflight of Kilauea Volcano's lower East Rift zone, during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., May 19, 2018. Picture taken May 19, 2018. USGS/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A 17th lava fissure erupts hundreds of feet in the air during a volcano outbreak in Pahoa, Hawaii, U.S., May 19, 2018. Picture taken May 19, 2018. Courtesy John Linzmeier/U.S. Air National Guard/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Lava flows into the Pacific Ocean southeast of Pahoa during ongoing eruptions of the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii, U.S., May 20, 2018. REUTERS/Terray Sylvester TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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A lava flow from one of the fissures entered the 815-acre geothermal plant complex on Monday night and destroyed a warehouse, County of Hawaii government spokeswoman Janet Snyder said.

Another fissure reactivated on Tuesday and sent lava flowing slowly in the direction of the plant, County of Hawaii Civil Defense said in a tweet.

Snyder said none of the wells were in imminent danger, as the flow was barely moving and still several hundred yards from the plant.

The latest explosive eruption at the Kilauea summit at around 1 a.m. (6 a.m. EST) sent a plume of ash over Hawaii's Big Island, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported in a statement.

"Communities downwind should be prepared for ashfall as long as this activity continues," the observatory said.

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The geothermal plant has been closed since shortly after lava began erupting on May 3 through newly opened fissures in the ground running through neighborhoods and roads in an area near the community of Pahoa.

The state has pumped cold water into the wells and capped them with iron plugs.

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Puna Geothermal Venture in Hawaii
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Puna Geothermal Venture in Hawaii
PAHOA, HI - MAY 21: Lava erupts and flows from a Kilauea volcano fissure, near to the Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV) plant (TOP R), on Hawaii's Big Island on May 21, 2018 near Pahoa, Hawaii. Officials are concerned that 'laze', a dangerous product produced when hot lava hits cool ocean water, will affect residents. Laze, a word combination of lava and haze, contains hydrochloric acid steam along with volcanic glass particles. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
PAHOA, HI - MAY 06: The Puna Geothermal Venture plant stands on Hawaii's Big Island on May 6, 2018 in Pahoa, Hawaii. The plant is 'increasingly threatened by the Lower East Rift eruption of Kilauea volcano' according to Hawaii Gov. David Ige's administration. The 60,000 gallons of pentane gas stored at the site are in the process of being removed as a new fissure opened a half-mile from the plant. The U.S. Geological Survey said a recent lowering of the lava lake at the volcano's Halemaumau crater 'has raised the potential for explosive eruptions' at the volcano. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
PAHOA, HI - MAY 21: Lava erupts and flows from a Kilauea volcano fissure, near to the Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV) plant (TOP R), on Hawaii's Big Island on May 21, 2018 near Pahoa, Hawaii. Officials are concerned that 'laze', a dangerous product produced when hot lava hits cool ocean water, will affect residents. Laze, a word combination of lava and haze, contains hydrochloric acid steam along with volcanic glass particles. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
PAHOA, HI - MAY 21: Lava erupts and flows from a Kilauea volcano fissure, near to the Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV) plant (TOP R), on Hawaii's Big Island on May 21, 2018 near Pahoa, Hawaii. The plant, currently shut down in the wake of encroaching volcanic activity, provides electricity to around 25 percent of the island. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
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The plant's wells run 6,000 to 8,000 feet underground to tap into extremely hot water and steam used to run turbines and produce electricity.

About 3 miles to the east of the plant on the coast, noxious clouds of acid fumes, steam and fine glass-like particles billowed into the sky as lava poured into the ocean from two flows.

Laze -- a term combining the words "lava" and "haze" -- is formed when erupting lava, which can reach 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, reacts with sea water. It is potentially deadly if inhaled and killed two people when a lava flow reached the coast in 2000.

Kilauea's eruption, which has already produced nearly two dozen lava-spewing fissures, entered a more violent phase at the weekend, producing larger volumes of molten rock from fissures.

At least 47 homes and other structures have been destroyed in the Leilani Estates and Lanipuna Gardens area of the Puna district, and a man was seriously injured on Saturday by flying lava.

Some 2,000 people have been ordered from their homes due to lava flows and toxic sulfur dioxide gas. Several hundred are staying at three Red Cross shelters in the area, including some staying in tents outside with their pets.

(Reporting by Jolyn Rosa; Writing by Andrew Hay; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Sandra Maler)

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