String of Hawaii volcano explosions shoot ash to 11,000 feet

HONOLULU, May 26 (Reuters) - A series of summit explosions on Saturday from Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano spewed ash up to 11,000 feet (3,353 m) and dusted the grey powdered rock on communities to the southwest, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said.

The three explosions, which began around 12:42 a.m. (6:42 a.m. ET/1042 GMT)), marked the latest bursts of ash and volcanic smog from Kilauea during the fourth week of what geologists rank as one of its biggest eruption cycles in a century.

Residents downwind of Kilauea were advised by County of Hawaii Civil Defense to avoid exposure to ash, which can cause eye irritation and breathing difficulties, particularly in people with respiratory problems.

Some 25 miles (40 km) down Kilauea's east flank, lava gushed from six giant cracks, with molten rock from two fissures advancing over another street of homes in the Leilani Estates housing development, the observatory said in a statement.

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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 number of houses and other structures destroyed by lava flows in the island's lower Puna district leapt to 82 on Friday from a previous count of 50 after fissures reactivated in Leilani Estates this week.

Another lava flow near the rural housing development slowed and was 150 yards (137 m) from Pohoiki Road, where there are dozens more homes, the observatory said.

Around 2,000 residents of Leilani Estates and nearby Lanipuna Gardens remain under evacuation orders due to lava flows and high levels of toxic sulfur dioxide gas from volcanic vents.

Contingency plans have been made for a possible helicopter evacuation of up to 1,000 residents in a coastal area south of the fissures should their last exit route, be blocked by lava or become unsafe due to gaping cracks, County of Hawaii officials said. (Reporting by Jolyn Rosa in Honolulu; Writing by Gina Cherelus in New York; Editing by Andrew Hay and Marguerita Choy)

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