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Lava Bomb Hits Tourist Boat

Lava entering the ocean

By MarEx 2018-07-16 18:36:27

A lava bomb hit a tour boat on Monday morning in Hawaii, injuring at least 12 people.

The boat was in Kapoho Bay, Big Island, when the flying piece of molten lava punctured her roof. 

The U.S. Coast Guard reports three people with serious injuries with the worst being a broken leg. Some media reports indicate as many as 23 people were injured.

Kilauea, the volcano on Hawaii's Big Island is currently in a high-activity phase and attracting sightseeing tours. So far, more than 650 homes have been destroyed by lava, and molten rock now covers over 6,000 acres of land. On May 11, the Captain of the Port Honolulu issued a Final Rule establishing a permanent Safety Zone for the navigable waters surrounding the entry of lava from Kilauea volcano into the Pacific Ocean. 

The Safety Zone encompasses all waters extending 300 meters (984 feet) in all directions around all entry points of lava flow into the ocean. However, certain commercial and research vessels with licensed captains demonstrating experience operating in the region and carrying all required safety equipment were given special permission to approach up to 50 meters. Tour vessels are known to operate the area going back at least 20 years.

The ocean entry is a hazardous area. The interaction of lava with the ocean creates "laze," a corrosive seawater plume laden with hydrochloric acid and fine volcanic particles that drifts downwind and can irritate the skin, eyes and lungs. Close to the ocean entry, flying debris from explosive interaction between lava and water is a primary hazard. Additionally, submarine magma-water interaction can result in explosive activity beyond the visible lava delta, creating a hazard that extends offshore. The lava delta is unstable because it is built up to 800 meters (0.5 miles) from the former coastline on unconsolidated lava fragments and sand. This loose material can easily be eroded away by surf, causing the new land to become unsupported and slide into the sea.