On Monday, the largest active volcano in the world erupted for the first time in 38 years, spewing waves of orange, burning lava and smokey ash, and authorities warned residents of Hawaii’s Big Island to be prepared for the worst.
The US Geological Survey warned the Big Island’s estimated 200,000 residents that eruptions “can be very dynamic, and the location and advance of lava flows can change rapidly,” according to the Associated Press.
Residents were warned to evacuate if lava flows reached inhabited areas.
Because of reports of individuals leaving the coast on their own, Hawaii County Civil Defence said that shelters had been established.
The USGS advised lava-threatened populations to check their eruption preparations. Due to a recent increase in tremors at the volcano’s top, which last erupted in 1984, scientists have been on high alert.
According to Ken Hon, the scientist in charge at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, a series of pretty big earthquakes were followed by the eruption late Sunday night.
The summit crater of the volcano and vents on the volcano’s northeast side are both remote locations where lava was erupting.
Given the threats presented by lava spewing 100 to 200 feet into the air from three distinct cracks around 1 to 2 miles in length, officials encouraged the people to stay away.
Sulfur dioxide and other volcanic gases that are released from the vents are also dangerous.
Overall, the Big Island’s air quality is OK right now, but authorities are closely watching it, according to Libby Char, the state Department of Health’s director.
Mr. Hon said that the air quality could get worse during the eruption, which scientists think will last about a week or two if the volcano acts as it has in the past.
Bobby Camara, a Volcano Village resident who has lived on the Big Island his whole life, advised island residents to follow the eruption. He emphasized the need for awareness and claimed to have seen three Mauna Loa eruptions in his lifetime.
“I think everybody should be a little bit concerned,” he warned. “We don’t know where the flow is going, we don’t know how long it’s going to last.”
Gunner Mench, who owns an art gallery in Kamuela, said that he woke up just after midnight and saw an alert on his phone about the eruption.
Mr. Mench and his wife, Ellie, went outside to take pictures of the strange red glow that was cast over the island as lava poured down the side of the volcano.
“You could see it spurting up into the air, over the edge of this depression,” Mr Mench said.
“Right now it’s just entertainment, but the concern is” it could reach populated areas, he said.
Many people on the Big Island have never seen Mauna Loa erupt before. Since 1980, when there were only 92,000 people living there, the number has more than doubled.
More than a third of the island’s population resides in the cities of Kailua-Kona to the west of the volcano, with around 23,000 residents, and Hilo to the east, with over 45,000 inhabitants. Officials were most worried about a few neighborhoods about 30 miles south of the volcano where about 5,000 people live.
Nighttime footage of the eruption showed lava lighting up a specific region and spreading over it like waves.
The eruption, according to the US Geological Survey, has moved to a rift zone on the volcano’s northeast slope. Mountain rock is broken and relatively weak in rift zones, which makes it simpler for magma to erupt.
At a press conference, Mr. Hon said that there is a possibility that lava might advance toward the county capital of Hilo, but that this could take around one week.
Scientists are hoping that the flow will be similar to the eruption in 1984 when the lava was slower-moving and more viscous.
Image Credit: AP