The U.S. Coast Guard announced March 28 it is establishing a temporary safety zone for the waters surrounding the Kilauea Volcano lava flow emptying into the Pacific Ocean from the southeast side of Hawaii Island.
The safety zone covers the area extending 300 meters from the shore in all directions around the lava flow's entry point into the ocean. The precaution is scheduled to stay in effect until Sept. 28.
The cliffs and lava delta in the area are unstable, and a lava flow streaming into the ocean has drawn many sightseers who come by boat and through Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which has established a safe viewing zone. Earlier in the year, the Coast Guard warned the public to watch for boats operating tours to the see the lava flow without proper permits.
"The Coast Guard has taken action to ensure public safety because of the danger the unstable sea cliff, volcanic shrapnel, toxic gases and potential bench collapses pose to vessel traffic and the public. As long as lava enters the ocean, further sea cliff degradation, hazardous conditions, delta construction and collapse are likely to occur. These collapses occur with little to no warning and cannot be predicted," a release from the agency states.
When the delta does collapse, large and dense fragments can be thrown in all directions, posing a safety risk, according to the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaii Volcano Observatory. The Coast Guard established parameters for the safety zone based on the observatory's records on collapses.
Vessels and people are prohibited from entering the safety zone without direct authorization from the Port Honolulu Coast Guard captain or his representative. The Coast Guard is also considering a permanent safety zone for the area, and is currently seeking public comment, which can be entered at www.regulations.gov