By Ana Verayo, | January 04, 2017

The rocky shelf at the base of the sea cliff is all that remains of the Kamokuna lava delta following the New Year's Eve collapse. (USGS HVO)

The rocky shelf at the base of the sea cliff is all that remains of the Kamokuna lava delta following the New Year's Eve collapse. (USGS HVO)

On New Year's Eve, a massive section of a lava delta in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park slipped and collapsed into the ocean. A viewing area and a nearby sea cliff also collapsed in the process, according to the Park Service.

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The Kamokuna lava viewing area was closed off around 2:45 p.m. local time.

Lava deltas form when lava enters the ocean, creating land. According to the Park Service, this process also involves hazardous volcanic emissions such as hydrochloric acid that can be potentially harmful to the eyes, cause skin irritations and lung infections.

According to Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando, at the time of collapse there were luckily no aircraft or boats in the area and the delta itself, and no visitors as well. If anyone was close enough via land, water or air, their lives would have been in danger.

 The U.S. Geological Survey released a new map of the coastline around the Kamokuna lava entry on the Kīlauea Volcano after this collapse.

This lava delta was estimated to be 26 acres. But now, most of it has disappeared into the ocean along with the viewing site and cliff. According to the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists, the collapse began in the afternoon and lasted for several hours creating volcanic blasts as rocks fell into violent waves along with gigantic thick, dark plumes of debris and gasses.

USGS scientists describe this lava delta collapse as solid and molten fragments of rock and fresh lava, with superheated steam that was ejected as an explosion into the skies. 

Following the collapse on New Year's Eve, the lava viewing area inside the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was closed off for two days and was later re-opened.

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