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Toxic Volcanic Gas Forces Hawaii Evacuations April 11, 2008
Photo of Kilauea volcanic plume
Unusual southerly winds blew toxic sulphur dioxide gas from Kilauea volcano into areas around Hilo, Hawaii.
Plumes of toxic gas billowing from Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano prompted officials to evacuate about 2,000 people from the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Levels of sulfur dioxide as high as 9.1 parts per million were measured within the park’s boundaries — nearly five times higher than the 2 parts per million that triggers a declaration of the island’s highest alert level.

Lesser spikes in sulfur dioxide levels were detected around the city of Hilo, but no evacuations were ordered.

The Hawaii Civil Defense Agency advised residents downwind of the volcano to close windows as a precaution against the toxic gas, which can cause breathing difficulties and irritate the eyes, nose and throat.

A return of trade winds was predicted to blow the volcanic gas out to sea late in the week.

Photo: Hawaii Volcano Observatory