The world’s biggest active volcano has erupted for the first time in nearly 40 years

Rachel Lang

| Last updated 

The world’s biggest active volcano has erupted for the first time in nearly 40 years

Featured Image Credit: Cavan Images / Alamy. ZUMA Press, Inc. / Alamy.

The largest active volcano on the planet has erupted for the first time in nearly 40 years.

Hawaii's Mauna Loa let rip at approximately 11:30 pm local time, spewing sulphur, volcanic ash, and lava from its peak, which triggered more than a dozen earthquakes.

By 6.30am local time, the US Geological Survey confirmed the lava flow had changed from the summit and had moved into the North East Rift Zone, where fissures were adding more molten rock via fresh lava flows.

A rift area is a spot where a volcano has cracked open, allowing more lava to seep through to the surface.

The volcanic discharge is currently contained within the summit and the Northeastern Rift Zone.

The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has issued a warning to the 200,000 or so people on the Big Island that an eruption 'can be very dynamic' and that the 'location and advance of lava flows can change rapidly'.

The volcanic ebullition could have been triggered by a series of earthquakes that shook the earth from about 8pm local time.

Scientist-in-charge at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory Ken Hon told AP experts are keeping a close eye on the spewing rock.

"We don’t want to try and second-guess the volcano," he said.

"We have to let it actually show us what it’s going to do and then we inform people of what is happening ASAP."

Scientists from the US Geological Survey predicted the eruption, which was nearly 40 years in the making, should stay contained but Hawaiians and visitors should be prepared to flee if need be.

"All indications are that the eruption will remain in the Northeast Rift Zone," the agency said in a statement.

"Volcanic gas and possibly fine ash and Pele’s Hair (strands of lava glass) may be carried downwind."

They added: "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.

"Possible harm to crops and animals. Minor equipment and infrastructure damage. Reduced visibility. Widespread clean-up may be necessary."

Hon revealed the mountain is in no way done with its dramatic show of nature's force, with the 4,169-metre-high peak expected to keep oozing for some time.

"Typically, Mauna Loa eruptions start off with the heaviest volume first," he said.

"After a few days, it starts to calm down a little bit."

Topics: News, World News, US News

Rachel Lang
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