A new lava viewing area is open at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park shortly after a different viewing platform collapsed, according to the National Park Service.
Over several hours on New Year's Eve, a 26-acre lava delta in the national park on Hawaii Island collapsed, generating waves that eroded the coastal cliffs where the viewing area was positioned. During the collapse, the lava viewing area was closed and no one was injured.
"Fortunately, there were no aircraft or boats reported in the area at the time of the collapse, nor were any visitors on the delta itself, which is closed for public safety," Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando said in a release. "Had anyone been close by on land, water or air, lives would have surely been lost."
Park rangers temporarily closed the Kamokuna lava viewing area, but five visitors ducked under the rope enclosure and ran toward the cliffs around 7 p.m. on New Year's Eve, according to the National Park Service. Rangers monitoring the eruption chased after them, and got them to turn around. Within 15 minutes, the section of cliff where the visitors were standing crashed into the ocean.
"It was a really close brush with death for them," ranger Travis Delimont said. "Luckily, they finally listened to us and turned around in time."
On Jan. 3 the National Park Service opened a new viewing area at the Kamokuna viewing area. The new viewing area is approximately 300 yards east of a cascade of lava flowing into the ocean, and about 60 feet inland of the coastal cliffs.
Lava deltas are hazardous volcanic features formed when lava enters the ocean and forms new land on loose, unstable underwater terrain. In addition to the potential for collapse, lava entering the ocean generates a highly corrosive plume of hydrochloric acid and volcanic particles that irritate the lungs, skin and eyes.