Published: Thu, July 19, 2018
Worldwide | By Victor Meyer

Injured When ‘Lava Bomb’ Hits Hawaii Tour Boat

Injured When ‘Lava Bomb’ Hits Hawaii Tour Boat

A blob of hot volcanic lava struck an ocean tour boat just off the Big Island of Hawaii on Monday, injuring almost two dozen people in the worst casualty incident to date from the ongoing eruption of the Kilauea Volcano.

Official warnings have asked tour boats to stay away from the lava entering the ocean as it can create clouds of acid and fine glass.

Three people were taken to hospital, while the remaining nine passengers drove themselves to hospital with superficial injuries.

The explosion left a gaping hole in the roof of the tour boat, which had been taking visitors out to view lava plunging into the sea.

Kilauea erupted in early May, sending a flow of lava into residential areas of Hawaii island.

Hawaii's tourist agency reassured visitors it was safe to see Kilauea and its lava, the Big Island's top attractions. Four passengers onboard the boat were taken by ambulance to Hilo Medical Center, according to the Hawaii County Fire Department.

He did not observe "any major explosions", so he navigated his vessel closer, to about 228 metres from the lava. Since then, more than 700 homes have been claimed and many communities rendered unrecognizable. Close to the ocean entry, flying debris from explosive interaction between lava and water is a primary hazard.

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Even though lava tourism has long existed on Hawaii's Big Island, tour boat operators have report increased demand from tourists eager to witness the latest eruption of one of the world's most active volcanoes.

Lava Ocean Tours, whose website promised excursions allowing passengers to "see, hear and feel the heat" from lava flows entering the ocean, is the oldest of several tour boat companies operating in the region. Visitor numbers spike each time Kilauea, which has erupted nearly continuously since 1983, sends a tongue of lava toward the ocean.

"It was an explosion, basically", said Janet Snyder, a spokeswoman for the county mayor, told the Tribune Herald newspaper. Kilauea was still erupting lava as of Sunday, according to the United States Geological Survey.

The captain of one of the boats said suspending the tours would only hurt the local economy.

But until now there had only been one serious injury, a man whose leg was hit by a projectile of molten rock as he sat on a balcony. Tour vessels are known to operate the area going back at least 20 years.

Officials were interviewing injured passengers at a hospital.

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