The U.S. Coast Guard is warning boat operators to stay away from the ocean entry point for lava flows from Kilauea, the volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island that is currently in a high-activity phase. Localized risks at the ocean entry include hot water scalding, steam explosions, collapsing cliff fronts and an unusual form of marine weather – “lava haze,” or “laze,” a corrosive mixture of hydrochloric acid gas, steam and fine glass particles.
Health hazards from this mixture include lung, eye and skin irritation, and according to the Hawaii Volcano Observatory, exposure can be fatal. Lava haze caused two deaths immediately adjacent to the Kilauea coastal entry point in 2000, when seawater washed across recent and active lava flows.
To protect the public from this hazard, the local authorities have closed off access to oceanfront Highway 137 on either side of the lava flow. Photos from the scene showed a towering plume of steam extending southwest along the shoreline, and Hawaii County Civil Defense warned residents to stay well back from the vapor.