USGS: Kilauea explosion underscores dangers of lava flow

USGS warns visitors of increasing Kilauea lava hazards
Published: Aug. 9, 2016 at 1:38 AM HST|Updated: Aug. 9, 2016 at 4:23 PM HST
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(Image: USGS)
(Image: USGS)
(Image: USGS)
(Image: USGS)

KILAUEA VOLCANO, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - An explosion at Kilauea volcano's summit late Saturday night that was triggered by a rockfall sent hot spatter onto the rim of the Halemaumau crater.

U.S. Geological Survey officials say anyone who had been standing in the area when the explosion occurred would've been severely burned or killed.

The warning comes as Kilauea lava flows reaching the sea have prompted a surge of visitors to visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park for a chance to see lava up close.

"What happened on Halemaumau demonstrates why visitors aren't allowed down next to the crater because rocks do fall down there," said Mick Kalber, of Tropical Visions Video, who documents Kilauea's eruptions and lava flows.

Volcanic rock fragments, up to 8 inches thick, blanketed the rim of the crater. Volcano monitoring equipment installed on the rim of crater was a casualty of Saturday night's explosive event.

"People seem to only have one fixation, getting to that lava flow and they often forget about all the hazards that go with trekking," said Ed Teixeira, director of Hawaii County Civil Defense.

Teixeira says as the lava continues to flow, the dangers continue to rise. "The most dangerous part we're seeing is people are ignoring some of the warnings given," he said. "They go to the sea cliff and ignore the roped off area."

Video taken by Kalber last week at Kamokuna point shows lava forming a new delta at the bottom of the cliff.

"It can collapse and fall down and you could be scalded with water or drown and it creates a mini tsunami, so it can be very very dangerous," said Kalber.

Teixeira added, "If anyone would just take a look at the old sea cliff coastline of Kalapana, you'll see clear evidence where rock slides have occurred. Where cliffs or lava benches have given way in the past."

The video also shows a large crack in the cliff above, which proves just how unstable the ground is.

"Take a peak at the ocean entry then back off, don't stick around there for a long time because bad things can happen," said Kalber.

USGS urges visitors to adhere to warnings signs and stay back from roped off areas.

The volcano undergoes many changes that can be unpredictable and life threatening.

For more information on viewing lava safely, click here.

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