People Are Putting Their Lives at Risk by Taking Hot Lava Selfies Near Kilauea Volcano, Police Warn
Nearly two weeks after the Kilauea volcano’s decades-long eruption sent lava shooting up from the ground, Hawaii police are warning residents and tourists from taking selfies in dangerous areas.
As many photos from the lava sites have become popularized on social media, authorities are emphasizing the risks of visiting the rivers of molten lava, much less snapping selfies.
“The fissures are deadly, very deadly. We’re currently in a condition red because of the increased ash in the area,” Alan Richmond, spokesman for the Hawaii Police Department, tells PEOPLE of the latest status surrounding the Kilauea volcano.
“We’ve had no injuries which is the good news. The danger is that there will be rocks and debris falling further down into the crater and when the lava hits the water table, there’s an explosion,” Richmond says. “Everybody is on standby. It’s a dicey situation and no one knows how long it will last and how it will end, just dealing with Mother Nature.”
On the increasing amount of visitors seeking lava selfies, Richmond says there have been precautions to notify people of the threatening areas.
“We’ve had roadblocks set up in the area unless they have been issued a placard which shows that they are residents. They have been evacuated due to a large part of being dangerous and don’t know the predictability of further fissures opening up,” he explains.
“We’re trying to protect the people and their property. They don’t know if they’re going to come back to a home or not. So far we’ve lost 36 homes,” Richmond says.
The lava bursts came after hundreds of earthquakes rattled the area for days, with quakes measuring magnitudes of 5.0 or higher, according to the Associated Press. The quakes were triggered after the Puu Oo crater floor began to collapse.
“The mood in Hawaii, when you live here, you’re very aware of the various volcanoes we have. Kilauea is one of the most active volcanoes, it’s been active since 1983,” he says. “It’s one of the big attractions, actually, the number one attraction in the Hawaiian islands is to go up to the volcanoes and be able to see the lava and craters. We have several million people a year come for that but that’s been shut down because of the danger. There’s a lot of unpredictability.”
While many are taking shelter and helping others from dangerous debris, the state is currently under high alert.
“Ohana is the way of life here. The spirit is good but I think it’s a nervous time for people on the island,” says Richmond, who adds that another risk is the hazardous air coming up from affected areas.
“The danger is that if the wind changes direction, you can be safe one minute and overcome by these fumes so it’s a life and death situation in many of those areas,” he cautions.
Concluding, “People that live here know that you do not want to mess with the volcano and the lava eruption. It’s just common sense.”
WATCH: Hundreds Forced to Evacuate as Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano Spews Lava Into Nearby Town
Over 1,500 Hawaii residents have been ordered to evacuate their homes since the volcano first erupted on May 3.
Mayor Harry Kim declared a state of emergency in Hawaii County, according to a statement from Hawaii Gov. David Ige announced in a tweet that he had activated the Hawaii National Guard to help with security and evacuations.
Several shelters have been opened in surrounding towns as officials have detected “extremely high levels of dangerous Sulfur Dioxide gas in evac area,” according to the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency.