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Planned lava-viewing area might not be close to Puna, Ige says

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The ideal site to safely witness the ongoing Kilauea eruption may not even be close to the source in Hawaii island’s vast Puna district, Gov. David Ige said Monday.

“You can see the lava flow from Hilo,” Ige told reporters. “So it’s anything on that side of the island. … Obviously, it would not be down in Puna, specifically.”

The Puna district is nearly as big as Oahu in terms of square miles.

Ige and tourism officials hope that a so-called “viewing platform” can be quickly built to offer a safe way to see the river of lava flowing 8 miles to the sea at a time when the island’s biggest attraction, Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, remains closed and covered in ash and damaged by earthquakes.

“We are looking at alternatives for activities for visitors in general,” Ige said.

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, Ige said, “obviously lost significant revenue potential on their side.”

Working with federal and county officials, Ige said the state “could create a space that would allow us to promote the viewing in a safe location. … It would have to be a platform that would provide a view of the eruption activities” while also offering parking space for vehicles, including buses.

Ige previously told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser that he hoped a viewing platform also would deter people who want to see the eruption from getting arrested and cited while trying to sneak into areas that are off-limits.

And he told the Star-Advertiser that U.S. Geological Survey staff and experts from their Hawaiian Volcano Observatory might be able to share their expertise at the viewing platform.

The platform idea remained popular with people who went to the parking lot of Sacred Heart Church in Pahoa to see the nighttime glow of Kilauea’s fissure 8, the main source of the lava flow.

“They should have it and regulate it, as long as it doesn’t cause a commotion or interruption,” said Brandon Robles of Honokaa.

Robles brought his wife and two kids, ages 7 and 12, to see the glow.

Christine Gee and James Holton of El Cerrito, Calif., took a day trip from Oahu to Hawaii island on Friday, then boarded a lava tour boat to see lava entering the ocean during the day.

“We had planned to come to Hawaii before the eruption,” Gee said. “We were staying in Honolulu. But we thought, with the lava going, it might be chance to see lava.”

They called the boat trip a once- in-a-lifetime experience.

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Staff writer Sarah Domai contributed to this report.

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