Who are at risk from the Mauna Loa volcano eruption in Hawaii?

Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano, the world’s most active volcano, has erupted, spewing ash and volcanic material into nearby areas, authorities said Monday.

The eruption began Sunday night in the caldera at the volcano’s summit on the Big Island, according to the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The lava flows were contained in the summit area and did not threaten nearby towns, the agency said early Monday morning.

“The Hawaii Volcano Observatory has received some reports of lava flowing in the southwestern part of the Mauna Loa caldera, but at this point, there is NO indication that it threatens populated areas. There are no evacuation orders,” the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency tweeted shortly after 9:20 a.m. EST (4:20 a.m. HST).

The agency added that shelters had been opened “as a precaution” in Kailua-Kona and Pahala, but noted that “approximately half of all recorded eruptions from Mauna Loa have remained in the summit area without threatening populated areas.”

“However, the lava flows in the summit region are visible from Kona. There is currently no indication of any migration of the eruption to a rupture zone,” the Hawaii Volcano Observatory said in a statement. A rift zone is where the mountain is splitting, the rock is cracked and relatively weak, and it is easier for magma to emerge.

It is impossible to predict how long the volcano will erupt and whether it could cause lava to flow toward populated areas of the island, said Miel Corbett, a USGS spokeswoman.

“But I can tell you that we are in constant communication right now with the Hawaiian Civil Defense and they are providing updates to members of the community,” she said.

1984 eruption

Based on the latest eruption, which did not cause fatalities but did destroy several villages, it can be understood that the early stages of a Mauna Loa eruption can be very dynamic and the location and progress of lava flows can change rapidly.

The USGS warned residents at risk from Manua Loa’s lava flows to review their preparations in case of an eruption. Scientists were on alert because of a recent increase in earthquakes at the summit of the volcano, which had not erupted since 1984.

Therefore, if the eruption continues, it is most likely that the lavan flows will be confined within the caldera walls. However, if the vents migrate out of their walls, the lava can move rapidly downhill.

To avoid grievances from the consequences this natural phenomenon may cause, the Hawaii Volcano Observatory is in consultation with emergency management partners and will be monitoring the volcano closely in the coming hours to provide further updates on activity.

“People with breathing difficulties should stay indoors, and cover nose/mouth with cloth or a mask,” the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency said.

What does Mauna Loa mean?

The volcano’s name means “long mountain” in the Hawaiian Polynesian language. On the other hand, it shares the island with four other volcanic structures called Kohala, Hualalai, Mauna Kea and Kilauea.

Kilauea destroyed 700 homes in 2018 after its lava moved much faster than in other cases, having a much steeper slope and with a more acute angle.

The latest information on the situation of the volcano

The USGS reported an alert level of “warning” and an aviation colour code of “red”. As indicated, it continues to erupt and detailed that “all vents remain restricted to the summit area.”

However, the geological survey authorities clarified that while “lava flows in the summit region are visible from Kona, there is currently “no indication of any migration of the eruption to a rupture zone.”

In addition, they stressed that the “HVO continues to monitor conditions carefully and will issue additional advisories as necessary.”

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park closed the Mauna Loa summit area to visitors because of the geological phenomenon affecting this Pacific island.

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