A tour boat off the Big Island of Hawaii was struck by a piece of hot volcanic lava on Monday, injuring around two dozen people.
The most injurious event since Kilauea Volcano began erupting some ten weeks ago, the incident occurred when molten rock mixed with seawater to create an explosion that sent a ‘lava bomb’ in the air and down on to the boat’s seating area, authorities said.
According to Reuters, Hawaii County Fire Department Battalion chief Darwin Okinaka said the boat returned to port less than an hour later.
Around 13 of the injured were taken to a local hospital, while paramedics treated ten more passengers at the port. The most serious injury involved a broken leg.
The operator of the vessel was Lava Ocean Tours, which is one of three companies to offer regular boat trips to watch the lava flow into the sea, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) said. Tours run at around US$220 per person.
Named Hot Spot, the 49-seat vessel was later filmed driving to its dock with a hole in its canopy.
The boat was also hit with smaller debris, while footage shows a thick cloud billowing into the air, with flashes of red and lightning, Reuters reported.
According to U.S. Coast Guard safety rules, boats must normally stay at least 300 metres away from the shoreline.
But DLNR spokeswoman Amanda Levasseur said some experienced boat operators gain special permission to move as close as 50 metres.
This vessel’s distance from the shore was not yet known, but Ms Levasseur stated the Coast Guard would now strictly enforce the 300 metre rule.