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Lava from Hawaii's Mauna Loa volcano eruption flows out of rift zone

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Mauna Loa, one of the five volcanoes that form Hawaii’s Big Island, is erupting for the first time in 38 years, though no evacuations have yet been ordered. Photo courtesy of USGS
Mauna Loa, one of the five volcanoes that form Hawaii’s Big Island, is erupting for the first time in 38 years, though no evacuations have yet been ordered. Photo courtesy of USGS

Nov. 28 (UPI) -- Mauna Loa, one of the five volcanoes that form Hawaii's Big Island, is erupting for the first time in 38 years, though no evacuations have yet been ordered.

The U.S. Geological Survey has confirmed that lava from the summit is flowing out of the northeast rift zone, Hawaii's Volcanoes National Park said in a statement Monday.

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Field crews are currently making observations and collecting information that will be used to create lava flow maps and guide officials as they analyze hazard risks, the USGS said in a statement.

"Lava flows are not threatening downslope communities," the USGS said.

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The eruption began around 11:30 p.m. on Sunday in Mokuaweoweo, the summit caldera of the volcano, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said on Monday as it issued a red warning.

"The eruption is currently confined to the summit, and there is no indication that magma is moving into either rift zone," the U.S. Geological Survey said in a statement on Twitter.

Webcams maintained by USGS showed lava erupting from fissures running along the floor of the caldera.

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The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said in an update around 2:43 a.m. that the vents remained constricted to the summit area but that lava flows were visible from Kona.

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The National Weather Service in Honolulu issued a warning on Twitter that "winds may carry volcanic gas and possibly fine ash and Pele's hair downwind."

An ashfall advisory was in effect until 6 a.m., with up to a quarter of an inch of ashfall accumulation possible.

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Hawaii County officials said in a statement that shelters have been opened at the Robert Herkes Gymnasium in Pahala, and at the Old Airport Gymnasium (Kailua Park) in Kailua-Kona "as a precaution."

The eruption has led to some flight cancellations in Hilo, Southwest Airlines said in a statement to Hawaii News Now.

Mauna Loa is the largest of the world's volcanos, and among the world's most active.

The last time that the 13,681-foot volcano erupted was in 1984, which also began in the Mokuaweoweo summit caldera before fissures migrated to the mountain's northeast rift zone and threatened the community of Hilo.

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