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Undercover trio defies volcano travel ban

Three menn that have been charged for trespassing at the Holuhraun volcano site will be facing heavy fines for their actions. They remain undeterred, however, went there again a few days ago. This time they used disguises and reached the site unopposed. They had their jeeps labeled "Icelandic georesearch" and put on helmets and vests.

The trio had little to say to our reporter, but they have much more vocal about the matter on the Facebook group "Ferðafrelsi" (Travel freedom). The social media group discusses a wide variety of topics related to tourists and tourism in Iceland, and comments from the trio can be found where they condemn the fact that the travel ban north of Vatnajökull only applies to a certain group of people.

Jóhannes Jensson, one of the trio, has said that all three of them were experienced travelers and in possession of all necessary gear and equipment for journeys such as this. As a result he finds it inconceivable that a travel ban in the area doesn't seem to apply to everyone that wants to go to the volcano.

"Absolutely ridiculous"

"It seems perfectly fine that almost everyone else is allowed to be in a restricted area. Self-proclaimed reporters and photographers, foreign students, drivers, various assistants and of course some close friends and acquaintances. These people seem to be allowed to wander all over a declared danger zone, drive off-road, take selfies, act like paparazzis and give everyone else the finger. They're often driving ill-equipped cars and there are cases where they'd have to leave them behind en-route, either stuck in the sand or out of gas," is among the things that Jóhannes has written on Facebook.

"It's absolutely ridiculous," he says to our reporter.

Unhappy tourists

Another of the trio, Gunnar Árnason, shares his experience of having been picked up in the highlands of Iceland by the Icelandic SWAT team.

"It's an interesting experience to be picked up by SWAT team members wearing bulletproof vests who flew in on the Coast Guard's helicopter into the highlands of Iceland and being treated by a criminal because I wanted to enjoy Iceland's nature," writes Gunnar.

Travel agencies also express annoyance over the situation, and there are examples of agencies selling trips up to the volcano area, despite the travel ban. Jóhannes says that Icelandic tourists are unhappy about missing out on the breathtaking experience of being close to an erupting volcano.

Scientists, police and certain members of the media are the only ones who have been given partial access to the danger zone by Civil Protection during those times that travel bans are imposed, and all of this is subject to conditions set by Civil Protection.

A statement from Civil Protection dating to September 12th states that the volcano area is highly unstable and the danger of floods due to sub-glacial eruptions is imminent. As a result the highland area north of the glacier has been closed to all non-essential personnel. Toxic fumes and lethal gas emissions are also a concern. As a result it is not safe to approach the area without gas masks and gas detectors.




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