Home / News / World /  World's largest volcano in Hawaii spews ash, residents warned of larger eruption

Officials issued a warning to the residents of Big Island to get ready in case a larger eruption occurs after the largest active volcano in the world, Mauna Lao released some ash and lava on Monday. It is difficult to accurately predict volcanic eruptions.

Mauna Loa eruptions "can be very dynamic, and the location and advance of lava flows can change rapidly," according to a US Geological Survey warning to the island's 200,000 inhabitants.

After a series of closely spaced, fairly large earthquakes, the eruption started late Sunday night in the summit caldera of the volcano on the Big Island, according to Ken Hon, the scientist in charge at the Hawaiian Volcanos Observatory. Although lava flows were contained in the summit area and did not pose a threat to nearby communities, magma was rising to the surface.

The majority of the island's population resides in Hilo, which has about 45,000 residents, and Kailua-Kona, which is located to the east of the volcano and has about 23,000 residents. A few subdivisions with about 5,000 residents about 30 miles to the south of the volcano caused the most concern among officials.

Molten lava lit up the caldera and swept across it like waves on the ocean in a time-lapse video of the eruption that was captured overnight.

The US Geological Survey (USGS) reported that the eruption moved from the summit to the northeast rift zone. It was feeding a number of lava flows, none of which were endangering communities below.

The USGS statement stated that all signs suggested the eruption would remain in the northeast hazard zone.

A northeast rift zone eruption could cause lava to be sent toward Hilo, the county seat, or other East Hawaii towns. On this side of the mountain, it might take weeks or months for lava to reach settlements. In a rift zone, where the mountain is rupturing and the rock is fractured and relatively weak, magma can emerge more readily.

“We don’t want to try and second guess the volcano. We have to let it actually show us what it’s going to do and then we inform people of what is happening ASAP," Hon said

“At this time, it’s not a time to be alarmed," Big Island Mayor Mitch Roth said.

The USGS advised residents who might be affected by Mauna Loa lava flows to review their preparations for an eruption. Scientists had been on high alert because there had been a recent increase in earthquakes at the volcano's summit, which last erupted in 1984.

An ashfall warning was issued for parts of the Big Island by the National Weather Service in Honolulu, which stated that up to a quarter-inch (0.6 centimetres) of ash could accumulate in some areas.

The Big Island of Hawaii is the southernmost island in the Hawaiian archipelago, and Mauna Loa is one of the five volcanoes that make up the island.

(With inputs from AP)

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