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Park Service to open new Hawaii lava viewing area

Associated Press logo Associated Press 3/01/2017

VOLCANO, Hawaii — The National Park Service has created a new lava viewing area on the Big Island after a large section of lava crumbled into the ocean on New Year's Eve.

Hawaii Volcanoes National park closed its original public viewing area after the Saturday incident, reported Hawaii News Now (http://bit.ly/2iKNfYR ). Park rangers said 22 acres of a lava delta collapsed over several hours and set off waves that eroded the coastal cliffs where the viewing area was located.

"Those 40-foot waves that were generated from the breakoff started to erode the coastal cliff section, so a lot of the coast cliff area that was out there, the former viewing area, all of that fell into the ocean. It's a very, very dangerous situation out there," said Jessica Ferracane, public affairs specialist for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Authorities say they hope to open the new viewing area by noon Tuesday. The Kamokuna ocean entry within the park is currently off-limits to hikers, but the lava flow can be seen from tour boats.

Epic Lava tour company owner John Tarson said the current conditions are "absolutely stunning" and "a show you may never see again."

The park said Monday that no one was injured in the Saturday collapse, which sent showers of volcanic rock into the air. But there were some close calls: five visitors ran out to the coastal cliffs despite the closure, and rangers chased after them and forced them to turn back. Within 15 minutes, the area they had been standing on fell into the ocean.

Lava deltas are formed when lava enters the ocean and builds new land on loose and unstable substrate. In addition to the potential for collapse, such areas are dangerous because they can create a corrosive plume of hydrochloric acid and volcanic particles.

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Information from: KGMB-TV, http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/

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