An unnamed resident of Hawaii is the first person to be seriously injured by Mount Kilauea’s volcanic eruption. He was sat on the balcony of his house when a lava spatter hit his leg, causing it to shatter.
Lava spatters are made up of projectile molten rock and can weigh as much as a refrigerator, so they can do some pretty serious damage.
“Even small pieces of spatter can kill,” said a spokeswoman for the county mayor, Reuters reports.
"It hit him on the shin and shattered everything there down on his leg," she explained.
The injured man was on a third-floor balcony on Noni Farms Road in Pahoa.
Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano began erupting in early May and is still wreaking havoc as lava flows through the streets, consuming cars and destroying people’s homes. About 2,000 residents have been ordered to evacuate by officials while many others have chosen to leave. Still, many people have decided to remain.
But things escalated on Saturday, as molten rock emerging from the ground threatened to block escape routes, meaning that more people may have to evacuate as roads – particularly important highways – become cut off. Highway 137, which acts as an escape route for coastal residents, has now been cut off. Officials are trying to unblock a road that was cut off by lava in 2014 to provide an alternative way to leave.
So far lava from the volcano has destroyed over 40 homes and buildings, and geologists are worried that magma – lava that hasn’t yet reached the surface – running underground could reach areas up to 40 kilometers (25 miles) east of the volcano itself, causing further destruction.
This lava would likely be hotter and more viscous than what has already flowed across Hawaii’s Big Island, and lava fountains could jump as high as 180 meters (600 feet) into the air. The lava has also made its way into the ocean, causing plumes of hydrochloric acid, steam, and fine glass particles to erupt into the air, a phenomenon recently described as "laze" – lava haze.
"Summit magma has arrived," US Geological Survey scientist Wendy Stovall told reporters.
"There is much more stuff coming out of the ground and it’s going to produce flows that will move much further away."
It’s still unclear when the volcano will calm down, but hopefully the first injury as a result of the eruption will also be the last.