After large lava delta collapse, new viewing area opens

Published: Jan. 2, 2017 at 1:16 PM HST|Updated: Jan. 3, 2017 at 4:45 PM HST
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(Image: National Park Service)
(Image: National Park Service)
(Image: National Park Service)
(Image: National Park Service)

VOLCANO, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) - Days after a 22-acre lava delta collapsed into the ocean, taking a key lava viewing area with it, a new viewing area has opened.

National Park Service rangers finished roping off the site Monday, and opened the area to spectators about noon.

The new viewing area is about 900 feet east of a cascade of lava pouring into the ocean, and about 60 feet inland of the coastal cliffs.

Visitors are being strongly urged to stay out of closed areas and heed all posted warning signs.

"Visitors who do not heed warnings not only endanger themselves, but the lives of others, including our park angers," said Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando.

The lava delta collapse on New Year's Eve started in the afternoon and lasted several hours, creating blasts of volcanic rock and a series of damaging waves, in addition to a thick, dark plume of debris and gas.

Authorities moved spectators about 300 yards away from the public viewing area on the coastal cliffs.

Jessica Ferracane, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park spokeswoman, said the collapse generated 40-foot waves.

"It's a very, very dangerous situation out there," she said.

During the collapse, the lava viewing area was closed. But despite that, five visitors ran out to the coastal cliffs. Rangers chased after them and forced them to turn back. Within 15 minutes, the section of cliff where they were standing crashed into the ocean.

"When the rocks fell, it created some very substantial waves. The water actually reached the top of that cliff from the waves. Then people started to panic," said California visitor Brooks Taylor.

Madame Pele is already starting over, creating new land once more.

"There's a really fast-moving river of lava flowing out of the ruptured lava tube into the sea, creating a new delta," said Warren Fintz, owner of Eppix Adventures Photography.

Lava deltas are formed when lava enters the ocean and builds new land on loose and unstable substrate. In addition to potentially collapsing, it can produce a highly corrosive plume of hydrochloric acid and volcanic particles that could be detrimental to the health.

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