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The world’s largest active volcano spewed some ash and lava overnight and officials warned residents of Hawaii’s Big Island to prepare for the possibility of a larger eruption. Predicting volcanic eruptions is an inexact science.

The US Geological Survey warned the island’s 200,000 residents that an eruption of Mauna Loa “can be very dynamic, and the location and advance of lava flows can change rapidly.

“The eruption began late Sunday night in the summit caldera of the volcano on the Big Island following a series of closely spaced, fairly large earthquakes, said Ken Hon, the scientist-in-charge at the Hawaiian Volcanos Observatory.

Magma moved to the surface, although lava flows were contained within the summit area and weren’t threatening nearby communities.

Most of the people on the island live in the city of Kailua-Kona to the west of the volcano, which has about 23,000 people, and Hilo to the east, with about 45,000.

Officials were most worried about several subdivisions about 50km to the south of the volcano, which are home to about 5000 people.

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