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Lava Flow Threatens Geothermal Power Plant In Hawaii

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HAWAII (CBSMiami) -- Emergency workers in Hawaii are racing to protect a geothermal power plant near the Kilauea volcano. There is concern lava could trigger the release of deadly hydrogen sulphate gas.

The lava crawled onto Puna Geothermal Venture's property before stalling late Monday. The facility is shutdown but the wells there still present a risk if overrun with the molten rock.

"It's not easy to predict where it's going to go, and when it's going to get there," said Tom Travis from State Hawaii Emergency Management.

Flammable liquids have already been removed and the wells have been filled with cold water but won't be plugged until later Tuesday.

A worst-case scenario could be catastrophic.

"Steam release, chemicals, primarily hydrogen sulfate, very deadly gas," explained Travis.

Evacuations could be necessary in the event of a gas release.

WATCH: Lava from Leilani Estates flow on the Big Island of Hawaii


Meanwhile, lava continued to spew from the area's active fissures Monday. Not one but two flows of lava now pour into the Pacific Ocean. Their three-mile journey over land left behind lava mounds that in some cases tower twenty-feet high.

Hundreds of evacuees have been forced from their homes for nearly three weeks now.

Heath Dalton's house burned down last week. He's frustrated officials made him leave days before and he couldn't remove any of his family's belongings.

"They wouldn't let anybody in. And now there's probably 130 acres covered in lava. Downed power poles, cracks in the road, fissures everywhere. Now they're letting people in," said Dalton.

Along with all of the molten rock, the fissures also pump out toxic gases and sulfur dioxide. Shifting winds are a worry and sightseeing residents have been urged to stay away.

Officials in Hawaii say the eruption has destroyed more than 40 buildings and forced more than 2,000 people to evacuate.

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