Molten lava from the erupting Kilauea Volcano on Hawaii's Big Island crept onto a geothermal power plant site on Monday, as workers rushed to shut down the facility to prevent the uncontrollable release of toxic gases.
Crews worked into the night to cap the 11th and final well at the Puna Geothermal Venture (PGV) plant, which provides about 25 percent of the Big Island's power, as lava from an active fissure flowed 200 to 300 yards from the nearest well pad, county and federal officials said.
"County, state, and federal partners have been collaborating closely to monitor the situation and work with PGV to ensure the safety of the surrounding communities," the county said.
The race at the site marked the latest challenge facing authorities as they cope with what geologists rank as one of the biggest upheavals in a century from one of the world's most active volcanoes.
The latest explosive eruption at the Kilauea summit occurred shortly before 6 pm local time, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory reported.
"The resulting ash plume may affect surrounding areas," it said.
The 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 on the far eastern flank of Kilauea.
Within a week, some 60,000 gallons (227,124 litres) of the highly flammable chemical pentane, which was stored at the plant, were moved from harm's way. The state said last week it was pumping cold water into the wells and would cap them with iron plugs.