A blob of hot volcanic lava struck an ocean tour boat just off the Big Island of Hawaii on Monday, injuring nearly two dozen people in the worst casualty incident to date from the ongoing eruption of the Kilauea Volcano.
A huge steam-driven explosion, caused by molten rock mixing with seawater as it poured from the shoreline, sent a “lava bomb” crashing through the roof of the boat and into the vessel’s seating area, authorities said.
The boat returned to port in Hilo on its own power less than an hour later, and three of the injured, including a woman in her 20s whose leg was broken, were taken to a local hospital by ambulance, Hawaii County Fire Department Battalion chief Darwin Okinaka said.
Nine or 10 others with less severe injuries were driven to the hospital by private vehicle, and 10 more people were treated by paramedics at the port, he told Reuters by telephone.
A civil defence spokeswoman, Kelly Wooten, put the total number of injuries at 23.
The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) said the boat was operated by Lava Ocean Tours, one of at least three companies offering daily excursions to passengers who pay around $220 per person to watch from a vessel lava flowing into the sea.
The stricken 49-passenger-seat vessel, dubbed Hot Spot, was later videotaped manoeuvring to its dock after passengers were unloaded. A still photograph furnished by DLNR showed a gaping hole in its canopy.