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Mauna Loa, Kilauea volcanos erupting at same time in Hawaii

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Lava flows from Mauna Loa in Hawaii, as seen from a helicopter on Tuesday. Photo by L. Gallant/USGS
Lava flows from Mauna Loa in Hawaii, as seen from a helicopter on Tuesday. Photo by L. Gallant/USGS

Nov. 30 (UPI) -- The Big Island of Hawaii was experiencing two volcano eruptions simultaneously Wednesday for the first time since 1984.

Mauna Loa and neighboring volcano Kilauea were both erupting for the third straight day. Kilauea is a continually erupting volcano, while Mauna Loa erupted for the first time in 38 years on Sunday. Mauna Loa is the largest active volcano in the world.

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"This is a rare time where we have two eruptions happening simultaneously," said Jessica Ferracane, spokeswoman for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, according to CBS News. "To the people of Hawaii, this is a very sacred event that we are watching."

KITV Island Television, an ABC affiliate in Hawaii, reported the flow from Mauna Loa was inching toward the Daniel K. Inouye Highway, which abuts the Ka'Ohe Management Area to the east and Pu'u Wa'awa'a Forest Reserve to the west. It is a critical connection point for traffic to move north and south through the island.

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Emergency management officials said in a media briefing there was a "high probability" of lava reaching the highway.

Hawaii's Emergency Management Agency said there were no evacuation orders or threats to populated areas. It is estimated that, at the rate lava was flowing into the Northeast Rift Zone, it would take about 46 hours for it to reach the highway. It takes about six hours to close the road.

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Lava was flowing from multiple fissures along Mauna Loa. Once it reaches flat land, it will pool together and spread more slowly.

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"We expect it will probably take longer than that as the lava flow spreads out. It will probably interfere with its own progress, and we expect it to slow down," said Ken Hon, Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientist.

Officials were discussing whether to attempt to redirect the flow of lava.

"Lava diversion is a tricky thing to do, especially on flat ground," said Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magnoe. "It really comes down to a volume problem. What we're seeing now is -- take 10 of the biggest dump trucks you can think of, we're getting that many dump trucks of lava every second delivered by this lava flow.

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"So if you think you can pile up stuff in front of it faster than it can deliver stuff, you're probably wrong."

Hawaii Gov. David Ige issued an emergency proclamation on Monday to allow various agencies to respond quickly should action need to be taken.

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