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Photos: Oozing lava draws thousands to Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano

Thousands of awed onlookers have been drawn to Mauna Loa, the world’s largest active volcano, which has been spewing volcanic ash and debris from the sky and oozing hot lava since it erupted over the weekend.

Anne Andersen was one of many people who clogged a road near Volcanoes National Park, a makeshift lookout point, to catch a glimpse of the eruption.

She said she left her night shift as a nurse to watch the show on Wednesday, fearing the road would soon be closed.

“It’s Mother Nature showing us her face,” Andersen said, as Mauna Loa spewed gas on the horizon. “It’s quite exciting.”

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Another observer, Gordon Brown, said he traveled from Loomis, California, with his wife hoping to be “as close as possible.” [they] could get” to the volcano. “And it’s so brilliant that it just blows my mind,” she said.

Mauna Loa began to erupt Sunday for the first time since 1984, ending its longest quiescent period in recorded history.

The night sky over Hawaii’s largest island glowed a hellish red as bright, hot lava erupted from the top of the volcano. The lava is contained within the summit and does not threaten Hawaiians living down the slope for now, the US Geological Survey said.

The service warned residents Monday that volcanic gases and fine ash may drift.

On Wednesday, lava was slowly pouring down the slope and was about 10 km (6 miles) from the road known as Saddle Road. It was unclear when or if it would cover the highway, which runs through ancient lava flows and connects the cities of Hilo and Kailua-Kona.

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Mauna Loa rises 13,678 feet (4,169 m) above the Pacific Ocean, part of the chain of volcanoes that formed the Hawaiian Islands. It last erupted in March and April 1984, sending a lava flow 5 miles (8 km) from Hilo, the island’s largest city.

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The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency said it had opened two shelters on the island as a precaution, but also stressed that there are no signs of lava threatening populated areas and it has not issued any evacuation orders.

About half of all recorded eruptions from Mauna Loa were confined to the summit, the agency said.

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