September 2, 2005

Lava Bench Collapses in Hawaii

HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK, Hawaii -- Fresh molten rock from Kilauea Volcano is flowing into an area where a 12-acre bench of hardened lava crashed into the ocean last weekend.

"It's already rebuilding, but a lot goes below sea level," said Christina Heliker, a geologist at the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

There were no reports of injuries from the 80-minute Saturday morning collapse that included boulders as large as 3 feet in diameter being washed up by waves generated by the action, authorities said.

Officials at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park had warned visitors for weeks that the lava bench, weakened by pounding surf, was ready to break.

The park had closed the area around the lava bench in July.

A 25-acre section of lava collapsed in the same area in 1996, throwing rock debris as far as 3,300 feet inland, Heliker said.


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