The world’s largest active volcano, Mauna Loa, has erupted for the first time in nearly 40 years on Hawaii’s Big Island, resulting in over a dozen earthquakes. Major ashfall is feared as the sky turns blood red.
Mauna Loa erupts: The world’s largest active volcano erupts for first time in 38 years
Fears of a major ashfall and devastating lava flows on Hawaii’s Big Island as Mauna Loa, the world’s largest active volcano, has erupted for the first time in 38 years. Authorities warn residents to be prepared.
The eruption began in the summit caldera of Mauna Loa at 11:30 p.m. local time Sunday (4:30 a.m. ET Monday), according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), NBC reported. In the early hours of Monday morning, the eruption had turned the sky red, and it was visible more than 40 miles away on the coast in Kona.
Mauna Loa is one of five volcanoes that together make up the Big Island of Hawaii. Mauna Loa is not the tallest, (Mauna Kea is), but it is the largest and makes up about half of the total landmass of the island.
The Mauna Loa volcano has erupted 33 times since 1843, according to the USGS. Its last eruption was in 1984 when lava came within 4.5 miles of Hilo, the largest town on the island which has 45,248 residents, CBS reported.
Besides the residents of Hilo, other communities that could possibly be at risk are Naalehu, with 1,007 residents; Ocean View, with 4,803 residents; a billionaire’s hideaway, with less than 100 residents; and the Kulani Correctional Facility, with 200 minimum security inmates (although only 93 are said to be at the facility currently), according to the Daily Mail.
Lava flow warning, voluntary evacuations
“At this time, lava flows are contained within the summit area and are not threatening downslope communities,” the USGS said in its alert notice.
Residents have been warned to “review preparedness and refer to Hawai’i County Civil Defense information for further guidance.”
“Based on past events,” the alert notice added, “the early stages of a Mauna Loa eruption can be very dynamic and the location and advance of lava flows can change rapidly.”
Although no evacuation orders are in place yet, some residents have already begun voluntary evacuations, the Daily Mail reported.
The National Weather Service (NWS) issued a warning for people with respiratory illnesses to remain indoors.
“People with respiratory illnesses should remain indoors to avoid inhaling the ash particles and anyone outside should cover their mouth and nose with a mask or cloth,” the NWS said in a statement. “Possible harm to crops and animals. Minor equipment and infrastructure damage. Reduced visibility. Widespread clean-up may be necessary.”
Over a dozen earthquakes and counting
According to the USGS, over a dozen earthquakes with a magnitude of 2.5 or greater have struck the region in the last two hours, with one measuring 4.2 in magnitude.
Scientists have been on alert before the eruption after a recent spike in earthquakes at the summit of the volcano.