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Lava Flows to the Ocean in Hawaii, Creating Rare Natural Show

A volcano on Hawaii's largest island is spilling lava into the ocean.
A volcano on Hawaii's largest island is spilling lava into the ocean, creating a rare and spectacular fusion of steam and waves that officials said could attract thrill-seeking visitors if it continues.

Lava from a vent in Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii began flowing into the ocean 7 miles away on Saturday. The volcano has been erupting continuously from its Pu'u O'o vent since 1983.

The flow was the first from the volcano to reach the ocean since December, said Janet Babb, spokeswoman for the U.S. Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.

Even as Hawaii tourism officials awaited an increase in visitors drawn by the explosive natural show, officials warned of potentially deadly risks and urged visitors to stay a safe distance away and respect barriers placed around the lava flow.

"Ocean entries can be quite beautiful but also quite dangerous," Babb said.

When the lava reaches the ocean, it cools, darkens and hardens into a lava delta amid an outpouring of steam. The lava delta is newly created land that is unstable and can collapse without warning.

When it collapses, even visitors standing 100 yards (meters) away can be hurt because large chunks of lava and hot water are hurled their direction by the collapse, Babb said.

For several stunning photos:

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