We’ve already reported on just how dangerous so-called “lava bombs” – solid pieces of debris that are ejected from active volcanoes – can be as the ongoing eruption of Hawaii’s Mt. Kilauea has threatened the lives of nearby residents, forcing them to flee. One man even suffered a broken leg after being struck by a seemingly small (but powerful) piece of debris. The latest close call unfolded on Monday, when a volcanic explosion sent a basketball-sized “lava bomb” crashing through the canopy of a tourist boat. It exploded, showering passengers with molten rock, according to the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency.
The pieces of the “bomb” exploded, showering the floor with glowing-hot pieces of magma. The strike injured 23 people aboard the ship, mostly with burns and scrapes, reported Hawaii civil defense officials. Four people, including a woman with a broken femur, were hospitalized.
The boat, called the “Hot Shot,” had about 49 passengers on board at the time of the explosion. The US Coast Guard responded to a request for help from the boat at about 6 am local time on Monday. The boat returned with the injured passengers at 7am.
The boat reportedly had permission to approach within 50 meters of the shore, but following the incident, boats will be asked to stay 300 meters away from the volcano, even if their captains have permission to move closer. The “Hot Shot” was reportedly roughly 200 feet out when it was struck. Shane Turpin, the boat’s owner and captain, told the press that he had just turned back out to sea after about 20 minutes observing the lava flows when the boat was suddenly struck. “All of a sudden everything around us exploded,” he said. “It was everywhere.”
Passengers described a truly horrific deluge.
“So as you’re getting pelted with this lava there is nowhere to go. You only have like 20 feet [6m], and everyone is trying to hide at the same spot. It was actually rather terrifying.
“For a little bit afterwards there was just chaos, and the captain tried to do what he could to keep everyone calm but you can’t. Erin’s face was covered in soot and my back was hot. It was just scary.”
The eruption has already destroyed dozens, if not hundreds of homes, and forced thousands to flee. In addition to the potentially deadly lava combs, authorities have warned about the possible impact of a toxic “lava haze” that could affect people located even miles away from the eruption.
“It was amazing and beautiful until it wasn’t,” passenger Will Bryan of Portland, Oregon, told The Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
Video taken by passengers showed lava bombs striking near the boat before screams and the sound of scattering debris are heard off camera.
#LavaBomb injures 23 tourists on a boat watching #Hawaii Volcano eruptions into ocean. Listen as water flashes to steam, causing lava to explode, punching holes into boat. Tour billed as #LifeChangingExperience. #KHOU11 pic.twitter.com/wg4ErXUm8g
— Shern-Min Chow (@ShernMinKHOU) July 17, 2018
Another video of the lava bombs hitting the surf also circulated on twitter.
— Michael the archangel, President of Nebuchadnezzar (@APnbc) July 17, 2018
Kilauea began erupting in May, pouring lava from fissures and vents and destroying more than 700 homes, making it the largest eruption in recent history.
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