The largest active volcano on the planet has been left in a “state of heightened unrest” following an earthquake of 5.0 magnitude.
Mauna Loa, which covers half of Hawaii, was hit by a series of tremors including a 4.6-magnitude quake shortly before the larger one.
Scientists are closely monitoring the area, which is still experiencing aftershocks that could last for several weeks.
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The quakes continue a marked rise in seismic activity in the area. A US Geological Survey found that there had been an increase from five to 10 earthquakes per day in June 2022 to 40 to 50 every 24 hours over the last two weeks.
The number of single-day quakes surpassed 100 on September 23 and 29.
Metro reported the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory as saying: “Shaking from the larger earthquakes may have been strong enough to do minor local damage, especially to older buildings.
“The two earthquakes occurred within 24 seconds of each other, creating shaking of a longer duration and possibly greater intensity than either of the earthquakes would have created on their own.”
The strong recent tremors prompted the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to close the Mauna Loa summit back country until further notice.
Some minor damage was reported in the town of Pahala, although Hawaii county mayor Mitch Roth said there had not been any reports of major damage or injuries.
The only shop in rural Pahala, Mizuno Superette, was shut for around 90 minutes after the seismic activity caused an electricity blackout and left broken jars on the floor.
Cashier Laurie Tackett said in quotes reported by Metro: “The ground was just shaking, it was a little scary.”
Despite the numerous quakes, Mauna Loa is not erupting and there are no signs of that happening imminently.
The observatory added: “This sequence of earthquakes appears to be related to readjustments along the south-east flank of Mauna Loa volcano.
“On several occasions large earthquakes have preceded past eruptions of Mauna Loa, though these have typically been larger than today’s earthquakes.
“It is not known at this time if this sequence of earthquakes is directly related to the ongoing unrest on Mauna Loa.”
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