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A Flare and a Spare: Visitors to the Hawaii volcano see two eruptions

The first eruption of Mauna Loa, the world’s largest active volcano in 38 years, draws visitors to 24-hour Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

“The observation was spectacular,” said park spokeswoman Jessica Ferracane, especially at night and before sunrise.

Visitors to the park can currently observe two eruption events: the glow from Kilauea’s lava lake and lava from a Mauna Loa fissure.

“This is a rare time when two eruptions occur simultaneously,” Ferracane said.

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* Hawaii’s Mauna Loa erupts. Can I still travel to Hawaii?
* Footage of the volcanic eruption in Hawaii captured during a US Coast Guard flyover

Mauna Loa last erupted in 1984. The current eruption is the 34th since recorded history began in 1843. Its smaller neighbor Kilauea has been erupting since September 2021.

Officials were initially concerned that lava flowing down Mauna Loa would flow toward the community of South Kona, but scientists later reassured the public that the eruption had moved into a rift zone on the volcano’s northeast flank and was not threatening communities.

Ingrid Yang, left, and Kelly Bruno, both from San Diego, take a photo in front of lava erupting from Hawaii's Mauna Loa volcano.

Gregory Bull/AP

Ingrid Yang, left, and Kelly Bruno, both from San Diego, take a photo in front of lava erupting from Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano.

The lava flowed “not super fast” at less than 1 mph, said Ken Hon, senior scientist at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, on Tuesday (Wednesday NZT). It was moving about 6 miles (10 km) downhill from Saddle Road, which connects the east and west sides of Hawaii’s Big Island.

The current would likely slow down about 4 miles (6.4 km) from the road as it hits flatter ground.

It was not clear when or if the lava will reach the road. The Hon says it could flatten out later on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Mauna Loa last erupted in 1984.

Marco Garcia/AP

Mauna Loa last erupted in 1984.

The smell of volcanic gases and sulfur was strong Tuesday along Saddle Road, where people watched the broad lava flow draw closer. The clouds cleared to reveal a large plume of gas and ash rising from an opening in the mountain.

Gov. David Ige issued an emergency proclamation to allow emergency responders to arrive quickly or limit access as needed.

This map shows the lava flow hazard zones for the island.

Phil Holm/AP

This map shows the lava flow hazard zones for the island.

Lava crossed the access road to the Mauna Loa Observatory Monday night, disrupting power to the facility, the Hon said. It could be moving toward the county seat of Hilo, he added, but that could take a week or more.

Meanwhile, scientists are trying to measure the gas released by the eruption.

“It’s very early on in this eruption,” said Hon.

Lava flows down the mountain from Mauna Loa's eruption.

Marco Garcia/AP

Lava flows down the mountain from Mauna Loa’s eruption.

Although local authorities enforce a no-parking zone near the eruption site, many bystanders flood the area and illegally park on the side of the freeway.

Marco Garcia/AP

Although local authorities enforce a no-parking zone near the eruption site, many bystanders flood the area and illegally park on the side of the freeway.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is open 24 hours a day.

Gregory Bull/AP

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is open 24 hours a day.

Mauna Loa is the largest active volcano in the world.

Marco Garcia/AP

Mauna Loa is the largest active volcano in the world.

Brian Lichtenstein from San Diego takes a photo in front of lava.

Gregory Bull/AP

Brian Lichtenstein from San Diego takes a photo in front of lava.

The current eruption is the 34th since recorded history began in 1843.

Gregory Bull/AP

The current eruption is the 34th since recorded history began in 1843.

The smell of volcanic gases and sulfur hung over the Saddle Road.

Marco Garcia/AP

The smell of volcanic gases and sulfur hung over the Saddle Road.

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