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Mauna Loa eruption: Hawaii Big Island volcano erupting first time in 38 years as ash fall warnings issued

Mauna Loa, the world’s largest active volcano located in Hawaii, began erupting late Sunday night, prompting officials to issue a warning to residents who live in the surrounding area of possible lava flow.

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Mauna Loa, the world's largest active volcano, has started to erupt, prompting volcanic ash and debris to fall nearby.USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory via AP

by Cami Mondeaux, Breaking News Reporter

Hawaii officials issued an emergency alert around 11:30 p.m. local time on Sunday, warning that a volcanic eruption had been detected inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park near the summit caldera of Mauna Loa. Officials warned the eruption could cause volcanic gas and ash to be carried by the winds but confirmed that “lava flows are contained within the summit area and are not threatening downslope communities.”

HAWAII’S LARGEST ACTIVE VOLCANO ON THE PLANET HIT BY MAGNITUDE 5.0 EARTHQUAKE

“Residents at risk from Mauna Loa lava flows should review preparedness and refer to Hawai‘i County Civil Defense information for further guidance,” the U.S. Geological Survey said in its warning to residents. “Based on past events, the early stages of a Mauna Loa eruption can be very dynamic and the location and advance of lava flows can change rapidly.”

The eruption comes after the active volcano was put into a “state of heightened unrest” due to a magnitude 5.0 earthquake that hit in mid-October. Although the volcano did not erupt in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, it’s unclear whether that incident contributed to the eruption on Sunday.

Mauna Loa has erupted 33 times since 1843, with its last eruption being recorded in 1984. During that incident, lava flow from the volcano came within 4.5 miles of the island’s largest town, Hilo, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory will coordinate with other emergency management partners to monitor the volcanic activity, it said in the emergency alert. Officials also confirmed it will conduct an overflight to assess future hazards.

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