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3 visitors cited for entering closed lava flow areas at Mauna Loa

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State officials said they cited three men visiting from Kazakhstan Wednesday for walking into a closed area of the Mauna Loa Forest Reserve on Hawaii island.

The area, according to the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources, was closed shortly after the current Mauna Loa eruption to protect people from risk of injury.

DLNR said three different law enforcement agencies — DLNR’s Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement, the Department of Army Police and the Hawaii Police Department — observed the three men walking in the closed and active lava flow area and back to their car on Daniel K. Inouye Highway.

A DOCARE officer that arrived on scene cited the three for entering a closed area under state law. DLNR identified the men as Adibayev Axamat, 31; Daurem Sabit, 23; and Nurz Niyaz, 32.

The three are scheduled to appear in Hilo District Court on Jan. 20 on petty misdemeanor charges and could face fines up to $500 and/or jail time of 30 days.

DOCARE is also investigating individuals and specific companies who have posted photos of themselves in closed areas and lava flows on social media.

The Mauna Loa eruption began at 11:30 p.m. on Nov. 27 for the first time in nearly 40 years, with the leading edge this morning reportedly stalled about 1.7 miles away from Daniel K. Inouye Highway, also known as Saddle Road.

State officials continue to warn people to stay out of closed areas because they risk getting seriously hurt walking across uneven ground in the dark, where recent law flows could still be extremely hot. Instead, officials said people should view the eruption from safe, established viewing locations.

“The Mauna Loa Forest Reserve and active lava zone is closed for a reason,” said DOCARE Chief Jason Redulla in a news release. “Eruptive activity can seriously injure or kill people. There are hidden dangers and when someone enters a closed area they are also putting first responders at risk if they’re called for help.”

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