(BIVN) – The Mauna Loa eruptions viewing area was open to the public on Sunday night, after a temporary closure due to the discovery of a military explosive.
The Pōhakuloa Traing Area, one of the government partners that established the eruption viewing area on the Old Saddle Road in order to alleviate traffic and safety issues on the Daniel K Inouye Highway, said the unexploded ordinance (UXO) was discovered in the lava rocks and away from the road.
The county, in coordination with Army officials, safely detonated the UXO, and reopened the viewing area. However, police reminded the public “that walking onto the lava field is prohibited and discouraged. Doing so creates a substantial risk as the terrain is very difficult. Please stay within the designated viewing area.”
Jim Albertini, who opposes the U.S. Army’s use of the Pōhakuloa lands for military training, said the UXO discovery was “not surprising in the least.”
“To all who drove the old Saddle Rd.,” Albertini wrote in an emailed statement, “remember the signs ‘Caution–Live Fire Overhead.’ There is a lot worse military Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) than a possible grenade. Lots of toxins too, including Depleted Uranium (radiation) rounds have been fired at Pohakuloa.”
Military officials downplayed the dangers of an interaction between lava and UXO during a recent media briefing. After the temporary closure of the eruption viewing area, however, PTA issued a reminder that the public “must stay on the road, and not wander off into U.S. Army Pohakuloa Training Area training areas. They must also stay off the surrounding lava rocks. And most of all, STAY AWAY from the lava flow. These guidelines are so our community can continue to observe the volcano in a safe manner.”
Some visitors to the viewing are still not getting the message. From the Hawaii DLNR late Sunday night:
Tonight, during a media tour, DOCARE Hawai’i Island Branch Chief Lawrence Terlep Jr. spotted a trio of people walking down Mauna Loa Access Road, which is closed. They told Terlep they thought “the road was only closed to cars.” People caught in closed areas risk getting seriously hurt walking across uneven ground in the dark, where hidden UXO may be located or recent lava flows could still be extremely hot. Violators can be cited or arrested.