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The rag-tag group of natives and tourists somehow survived for a week on the manor by the cliff, while the volcano still spits lava and pyroclastic clouds all around.

Just before the last cell tower near the manor broke, a survivor managed to post on social media a photo of the group on the manor, so the general public is aware of survivors. Some of them are from wealthy and influential 1st world families (USA and Europe), so there is pressure to mount a rescue operation.

They have no other means of communicating with the external world, but the UN, USA and EU authorities still tell the media, one month later, that the search and rescue for those survivors goes on strong.

The fictional country that island belongs to is some 1200km north-northwest of Guam, and is a developing country, and have to deal with all sorts of other problems in neighbor islands, so rescuing these foreigners is not their priority.

The US government approved a rescue operation by "any means necessary" (so it says on the press release), but still it is suffering delays.

What possible reasons published by the authorities could justify the delay of this rescue operation by several months?

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  • $\begingroup$ Do they absolutely have to be trapped in a manor, or could their shelter be changed if necessary? $\endgroup$ – Dan Smolinske Apr 7 '15 at 17:48
  • $\begingroup$ @DanSmolinske It is a followup of the linked question. $\endgroup$ – Mindwin Apr 7 '15 at 23:06
  • $\begingroup$ Avalanche triggered during minor tremor, all path is blocked so helicopters and planes cannot render first aid nor ration due to uneven ground and the uncertainty of future eruptions which will endanger rescue mission. Also communication between rescuer and trapped failed due to damaged wires unless they have a satellite phone, their location is not determined satellite images is poor due to weather condition as well as ashes. There are conflict going on since this volcanoes lie on the border and rebels are active in the region... too many points so limited space. $\endgroup$ – user6760 Apr 8 '15 at 13:10
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Volcanic ash cloud!

How do I know?

It happened in the past!

As a matter of fact, in 2010 Eyjafjallajokull (a volcano in Iceland) erupted and disrupted air travel across Europe and the Atlantic. For weeks. I would imagine that if this is a small and mostly isolated island in the Pacific the only way to get there without air travel is by boat. As history has shown that is considerably longer than an 18 hour flight.

Then again, why would they send help at all? If this was a big enough eruption and it causes a drop in global temp it will send society into chaos. All governments would have better things to do than rescue islanders who are probably already dead.

I mean, even with a few members of influential families on the island, they are probably already presumed dead and therefore chance of imminent rescue would be nill.

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  • $\begingroup$ Don't forget the volcanic induced weather and lightning storms! $\endgroup$ – Adam Davis Apr 7 '15 at 19:23
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    $\begingroup$ My company is in the travel business. That volcano was miserable for business. Lost millions. $\endgroup$ – Paul Chernoch Apr 7 '15 at 19:47
  • $\begingroup$ The air near the island is so choked with ash that you can't run an engine for more than an hour or so... $\endgroup$ – Chris B. Behrens Apr 14 '15 at 16:21
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A Hurricane is sitting on top of the island! Beautiful visuals! It's a Hurricano! Challenge the science wizards on this site to explains how all the ash and heat of the volcano could somehow make the hurricane become stationary and permanent with its eye directly over the volcano.

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    $\begingroup$ That sound you're hearing is the party the executives at SyFy set off after reading this idea. $\endgroup$ – Dan Smolinske Apr 7 '15 at 18:11
  • $\begingroup$ A hurricane on top of a CEI 4~5 volcano is overkill................... $\endgroup$ – Mindwin Apr 7 '15 at 23:05
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    $\begingroup$ Yes... but it would really cool on the big screen! Sprays of lava, racing along in 80mph winds. Even if they cool by the time they hit you, they're lava glass and will cut you to shreds. Like a tornado in a razor-blade factory, only bigger. ...SyFy, I'm available if you're hiring! $\endgroup$ – Henry Taylor Apr 7 '15 at 23:45
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1) Because they don't want some of them (or all of them) rescued? (They are believed to have witnessed something the government doesn't want known?) The government tries to stall while finding a solution for that (having to rescue them because of international pressure and - you know... - morals) They may try to fake a rescue when in fact trying to kill em off, or to trick an other island nation to rescue them and attack that rescue "thinking" it was just that nation's armed forces helicopter and not a rescue.

2) Volcano won't stop and dishes out to much ash and rocks to safely approach the island by air, and by sea is complicated because the surrounding island nations will not let them approach but won't rescue themselves because the U.N. has denied them access to the island and they've yet to lift that ruling, but allowing them would implicate the island being claimed by them or something like that.

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Unknown Location

The world is big. Even "tiny" islands can be incredibly large when you're looking at manual search and rescue. If the eruption is continuing, it will make satellite or air surveillance nearly impossible, and roads largely unusable. So now you're searching on foot.

As long as the social media post didn't include an exact location, the authorities will find it difficult and time consuming just to find the people. Especially if exterior damage/ash makes it hard to tell which manors are simply abandoned vs the one they're holed up in, that means they have to check them all individually, while staying in protective gear and keeping supplied since they can't live off the land.

Another factor could be someone writing off their actual location as already searched (either through a simple mistake or incompetence) meaning the authorities are concentrating their efforts elsewhere.

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  • $\begingroup$ Even under the best circumstances, cellular signals only travel miles, not tens, hundreds, or thousands of miles. The government would be able to very quickly (day or two at most) work with the social network to get the IP of the posting, get the service provider (cellular company) to tell them which tower provided that IP for that time period, and even which direction from the tower the signal came in on. The tower's location is known to within a few feet. $\endgroup$ – Adam Davis Apr 7 '15 at 19:25
  • $\begingroup$ @AdamDavis: a quick google search shows that GSM phones have a max range of 22 miles (35 KM). If we assume it was, say, 10 miles away, then that gives authorities a 314 square mile area to search - non-trivial without air assets. $\endgroup$ – Dan Smolinske Apr 7 '15 at 19:39
  • $\begingroup$ A GSM phone under ideal conditions (ie, in a laboratory) can form at least one 9.6kbps cellular data channel for the purposes of voice communication. In reality radio communications are usually only good for about a tenth of their "maximum range" and sending TCP/IP data back and forth with webservers requires a very good connection that doesn't drop at all during the process. If it were a simple text message, then a longer range could work since it's a single transmission along a control channel. But as an IP connection it requires a regular data channel, and it cannot drop at all during. $\endgroup$ – Adam Davis Apr 7 '15 at 19:49
  • $\begingroup$ However, all of this is more depth than most readers would care about - and they might, in fact, have no problem with the idea that you can send twitter messages to cellular towers located 22 miles away. I suppose you'd have to ask the people in New Orleans during Katrina or New York during Sandy for information on how connected they were during their disasters. $\endgroup$ – Adam Davis Apr 7 '15 at 19:51
  • $\begingroup$ @AdamDavis: That's probably enough to negate it. It's interesting that the max range is almost 10 times the practical, I didn't realize the difference would be that stark. I think the question would have to change to a text message to make this a practical reason. I assume satellite phones would send GPS coordinates and would be even more accurate? $\endgroup$ – Dan Smolinske Apr 7 '15 at 19:57
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The island moved by several hundred miles (huge plate shift) not only throwing it off the active volcano (so no smoke plume to follow) but preventing authorities from finding it at all. Meanwhile, the volcano continues to spew ash, smoke, and dust which hampers satellite and high flying search operations, meaning everything is done in dim to dark conditions, close to the ocean where the search areas are small and time consuming.

Further, some other minor crisis is going on requiring continued maintenance or attention, pulling away resources that would normally be used for this type of operation.

Geologists were aware of earthquakes and tremors, but it takes some plucky researcher to posit a plate shift, and then weeks for her to convince people that it may be the reason they can't find the island.

Further, since the volcano is still spewing, but the island is clearly no longer the same, many posit that it sunk or crumbled down, rather than simply moved elsewhere. They are conducting a half-hearted mission, no longer hoping that it will be rescue, but merely find answers.

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Putting together stuff from a bunch of other discussions plus some of my own ideas.

Based on the discussion in your other thread, if the 'valley' diverting the lava flow from the survivors was approximately C-shaped, then these people could essentially be on a 'island' in the middle of the lava flow. That would cut off any land or water-based access as long as the lava keeps flowing. About the air-access, the (presumably shifting) ash cloud (a la Eyjafjallajokull) would make it too risky to fly until the volcano stopped completely. I think the air access would be advised against even if it was mostly clear, since I think even fine ash particles can mess up aircraft engines. This line of reasoning would allow the survivors to have mostly clear air to breathe, while still preventing rescue.

[ And this might help : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volcanic_ash_and_aviation_safety#Immediate_hazards_to_aircraft ]

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I think the above volcanic ash option is the best. It's a large island, they aren't sure exactly where everyone is, and there is ash everywhere.

As another option, try politics. Perhaps to get a rescue operation flown in they would have to fly through the no-fly zone of a country, and they can't get permission to pass through it? Perhaps the country that has the volcano eruption explicitly refuses help for political reasons. If the country is developing it may not have the means, or suicidal tendencies, to shoot down a humanitarian rescue chopper. However, if they are developing due to presence of oil or other natural resource they MAY be able to threaten to cut off resources to first world countries that don't respect them.

If you claim that only the few dozen folks are in danger, perhaps their on an island that is mostly uninhabited, then it becomes a matter of a few lives vs major political fights. Perhaps the country with the volcano claims that they can rescue the people in trouble and the government needs to 'prove' they don't need help from the big first world countries, but the local government actually lacks the resources to mount a rescue. Meanwhile their stubborn insistence on proving they don't need help, and threats to cut of oil and otherwise punish any country that does provide aid prevents or delays first world nations from helping.

Politically the first world nations would say they are respecting the wishes of a sovereign nation, not giving in to demands to keep the oil flow. They may be taking other actions, like organizing a rescue that works with the local nation's government in a way that lets that nation save face.

To make the idea work well I would imply that the US and first world countries don't think that those trapped are in immediate danger, and thus think they can afford to take some time in playing the politics game. Maybe they underestimated the rate at which lava is flowing and misjudged how close the trapped persons are from the actual lava flow? Perhaps the local government is intentionally feeding mis-information as part of their saving face (yeah we haven't rescued anyone, but not because were incompetent, they just aren't in danger so we don't need to do anything crazy). Between the misinformation, and the ash blocking out satellites (plus, we wouldn't have spy satellites over unimportant regions of the world, so we don't have nearly the bird's eye view you may assume) the first world countries simply don't get how dangerous it is for your survivors.

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