At least 23 people were injured after a tremendous lava explosion off the coast of Hawaii’s Big Island sent rocks and debris shooting through the air, landing on a boat packed with tourists.
Hawaii county officials describe a "basketball-sized" lava bomb that punctured the roof of the Kalapana Cultural Tours boat, leaving a large hole. One of the railings of the boat was also damaged.
Local reports indicate four passengers were taken by ambulance to the Hilo Medical Center. One person, a woman in her 20s, was in serious condition with a fractured femur. The other passengers suffered superficial burns and scrapes, according to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
The lava explosion stems from ongoing eruptions from the state’s Kilauea volcano, which began spewing molten rock in early May. More than 700 nearby homes have been swallowed up by the lava flow, and evacuation orders are still in place.
It’s not clear how close the tour boat got to the belching mountain, but just last week the Coast Guard lowered their mandatory safety perimeter zone around ocean entries from 100 meters to 50 meters for licensed lava tour boat operators.
Many boat operators and employees expressed skepticism with the change, warning that it was too close for comfort.
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