KALAPANA, Hawaii -- Lava from Kilauea Volcano poured into the ocean Sunday, sending up billowing white clouds of steam containing hydrochloric acid and volcanic particles and adding to the coastline of the island of Hawaii.
'The volume of lava entering the ocean is high. It has created a delta of about 50-75 yards wide and 50-75 yards out into the sea,' said Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator Harry Kim.
The molten rock reached the ocean after destroying a pavilion located on the former site of the Star of the Sea Catholic Church in Kalapana Village. The church had been moved to safety last month.
'The laze factor is quite high,' said Kim, referring to the potentially toxic clouds of steam created when hot lava hits ocean water.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has promised to send a team into the area to monitor the air quality and determine if the fumes posed a health risk, he said.
Strong tradewinds Sunday blew the clouds away from habitation and towards areas of Kalapana that had already been devastated by previous lava flows.
The Kalapana store, the Star of the Sea painted church, and the Mauna Kea Congregational Church had made up the center of what is now a ghost town on the southeast shore of the island, some 200 miles from Honolulu.
Only the store remained untouched at the site, although lava had covered its parking lot and approached to within five feet of the structure.
'Movement has stopped at the store, but the lava is still hot and there is some inflation, so it (can) move again at any time,' said Kim.
The occupants of 16 homes in the Kaimu area, about a mile east of Kalapana Village, have been put on standby alert, Kim said.
Some seven miles up slope at the Kupaianaha vent, Kilauea was spewing out about 650,000 cubic yards of molten rock daily. The 2,000-degree lava runs into underground tubes until it surfaces near what is left of the rural settlement.
The eruption, which began in January 1983, has rolled over three rural housing areas and turned the region into a federal disaster area.
Lava has burned 160 homes and other structures, causing an estimated $61 million in damage.