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Officials: Extensive crack near lava flow makes shelf collapse possible

February 3, 2017 - 10:23am

HILO — The seaside cliff near the Kamokuna lava ocean entry was preparing to split as a ground crack widened to more than 2 feet, geologists said Thursday.

The extensive crack was located between 16 and 33 feet inland from where lava from Kilauea’s Puu Oo vent is flowing into the sea, and the ground was showing additional signs of weakening, said Janet Babb, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory spokeswoman. A collapse could happen at anytime.

“The ground is shaking out there,” Babb said. “There is motion.”

The crack was discovered Jan. 25 and is now 2.5 feet wide.

A collapse could create large waves and shower the area with blocks of lava and hot fragments.

Visitors were being reminded to stay in the designated viewing area.

Jessica Ferracane, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park spokeswoman, said the lava flow is easily visible from those areas.

She said 28 citations have been issued for visitors getting too close since the New Year.

New viewing boundaries were setup following a collapse of the delta of new land formed by the lava flow and some of the adjacent cliff on New Year’s Eve. That collapse involved about 25 acres.

The delta has yet to rebuild, suggesting steep topography below the surface.

Babb said it’s difficult to estimate how much land could be lost with the next collapse since it’s not known how deep the crack goes.

“That will have a much more far reaching impact,” she said, if the crack extends below sea level.

“The bottom line is it’s extremely unstable and that is of concern.”

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