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Posted: Sunday, July 3rd, 2005 7:30 AM HST

Kilauea lava flow viewing area restricted

By Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) _ A Big Island area where visitors can watch Kilauea's lava flow into the ocean is being temporarily closed off because of fears a lava bench may collapse.

James Kauahikaua, head of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory at the U-S Geological Survey, says the East Laeapuki ocean entry has developed numerous cracks.

This indicates a 25-acre lava bench in that part of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is in imminent danger of collapsing.

Park officials say visitors are being pushed back from the previous viewing boundary and won't be able get a close-up look at the red-orange lava as it hits the water.

But they will still be able to see the steam plume from a distant, safer viewing area at the end of Chain of Craters Road.

Visitors are advised to check with park rangers for current conditions before going to the site.

Lava benches form when lava flows into the sea, creating new, unstable land. They can collapse without warning.

(Copyright 2005 by the Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

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