As if Hawaiian officials didn’t have enough to worry about with the ongoing eruption of Kilauea and rebuilding Kauai after historic floods two months ago, now tourists are ignoring warnings as they scramble to take pictures.
Visitors on the Big Island are now facing jail time and fines of up to $5,000 for entering lava zone areas that have been closed off to the general public. Despite barricades and warnings of dangerous gas emissions, people continue to sneak in to see and photograph the lava flow.
Since the eruptions started, roughly 40 people have been arrested for loitering in lava zones, according to state officials. A dozen of those have come in the last 10 days. People who trespass in those areas face not only steep fines, but a possible jail sentence of up to one year.
“I find there is a need to strengthen the enforcement tools available to county and state emergency management officials in controlling public access to dangerous areas and associated evacuation efforts as a result of the failure of the public to comply with instructions and orders issued by officials,” Gov. David Ige said in a statement.
While the lure of taking a picture or video that goes viral on social media is strong, officials say the lava areas are still hazardous. New lava zones continue to emerge without warning and the flow has already devoured over 500 homes. The lava evaporated Hawaii’s Hawaii’s largest freshwater natural resource, called Great Lake, in just a few hours.
And officials add the activity could bring about a financial crisis on the island, as “volcano insurance” isn’t an option for most Hawaiians.
The eruptions have been ongoing since May 3, and lava now covers just shy of 6,000 acres, or 9.25 square miles, of the island.
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