When it comes to capturing the perfect volcano selfie, it seems some people are truly willing to brace the odds – as well as police barricades, hazardous gas emissions, and potentially life-threatening conditions. Because of a new order, dozens of people in Hawaii could also face thousands of dollars in penalties and jail time if they get too close to Kilauea’s eruption.
At least 40 tourists and full-time residents have been arrested since the volcano started erupting in early May on loitering charges, according to the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR). In the last 10 days alone about a dozen people have been cited for “loitering” in lava zones, making some eligible to be disciplined under new stricter penal guidelines.
Earlier this month, Hawaii’s governor announced a “zero-tolerance” policy for anyone who ventures into hazardous areas closed due to Kilauea’s eruption. Those convicted of loitering in a closed area could face fines of up to $5,000 and a year in jail.
Such a harsh punishment was implemented to protect both visitors and their potential rescuers. When patrolling areas, the DLNR says officers have to wear gas masks to protect themselves from noxious volcanic gasses given off by lava. Fast-flowing and unpredictable lava flows reaching speeds of up to 27 kilometers per hour (17 miles per hour) put both spectators and rescuers at risk as escape routes can become cut off. The DLNR has reported incidents of people needing to be rescued by air and cited one drone operator for flying his drone in a no-fly zone, to name a few. Let’s not forget the warning the US Geological Survey (USGS) had to issue last month.
“These people need to think. They are not only putting themselves into potentially life-threatening situations, but we can’t completely lock gates or erect impassable barricades in areas where people have only one way out – these are the routes loiterers are using to gain up-close access,” said Jason Redulla, Deputy Enforcement Chief of the DLNR's Division of Conservation and Resource Enforcement, in a statement.
Authorities say people are able to access active sites by using backroads that have been barricaded off but otherwise need to remain open in case local residents have to evacuate.
[H/T: Hawaii News Now]