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Magnitude 5.7 quake strikes Mauna Loa volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island

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HONOLULU – A 5.7 magnitude earthquake struck the world’s largest active volcano, Mauna Loa on Hawaii’s Big Island, on Friday, knocking items off shelves and knocking out power in a nearby town, but prompting no immediate reports of Serious damage.

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The earthquake, which did not trigger a tsunami and was initially reported by the U.S. Geological Survey as magnitude 6.3, was centered on the southern flank of Mauna Loa at a depth of 37 kilometers, 2 kilometers southwest of Pahala.

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“It shook us up a lot to the point where some of our knees were shaking a little bit,” said Derek Nelson, manager of the Kona Canoe Club restaurant in the coastal community of Kona, on the western side of the island. “He shook all the windows in the town.”

There was a power outage affecting about 300 customers in Naalehu that appeared to be related to the earthquake, said Darren Pai, spokesman for Hawaiian Electric Company.

The earthquake struck after 10 a.m. local time, less than two hours before an unrelated earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 4.6 struck Southern California.

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Mauna Loa last erupted at the end of 2022. It is one of the five volcanoes that make up the Big Island, which is the southernmost of the Hawaiian archipelago.

Earthquakes can occur in Hawaii for a variety of reasons, including magma moving beneath the surface. In Friday’s case, scientists believe the likely cause was the weight of the Hawaiian Islands bending and straining the Earth’s crust and upper mantle.

That’s what caused a magnitude 6.9 earthquake that struck Kiholo Bay, on the northwest coast of the Big Island, in 2006. That tremor damaged roads and buildings and left power out as far away as Honolulu, on the island. from Oahu, about 200 miles north.

Helen Janiszewski, an assistant professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, said the Hawaiian Islands are located on the Pacific oceanic tectonic plate and have some of the largest volcanoes in the world.

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“So there’s a huge amount of rock mass associated with the islands and because of that, it’s actually enough to slightly displace the Pacific oceanic plate beneath the islands,” he said. “And that force sometimes causes earthquakes.”

This type of earthquake tends to occur several tens of kilometers below the Earth’s surface in the mantle, Janiszewski said. Earthquakes caused by moving magma tend to affect shallower depths.

The observatory said Friday’s earthquake did not affect either Mauna Loa or the neighboring volcano, Kilauea.

There were no immediate reports of damage to telescopes on the summit of Mauna Kea, another nearby volcano that has some of the world’s most advanced observatories for studying the night sky.

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Jessica Ferracane, a spokeswoman for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, said there was no apparent damage to its roads or visitor centers. Earthquakes are not uncommon, she said, but this one was “much more intense” than usual.

The Hawaiian Islands have been built by successive volcanic eruptions over millions of years. The vast majority of earthquakes in Hawaii occur in and around the Big Island. About once every year and a half, there is an earthquake in the state of magnitude 5 or greater, according to the Hawaii Volcano Observatory.

The Big Island is mostly rural and is home to cattle ranches, coffee plantations and tourist hotels. But it also has some small cities, including the county seat of Hilo, with a population of 45,000.

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Friday’s earthquake could be felt in Honolulu. Big Island Mayor Mitch Roth was there at a cardiologist appointment and at first thought he was experiencing side effects from a procedure: “I suddenly felt like I was getting dizzy.”

He said he immediately spoke to his emergency management officials by phone when he realized it was an earthquake and that he was headed to the Honolulu airport to try to catch an earlier flight back.

Grace Tabios, owner of Will and Grace Filipino Variety Store in Naalehu, said the tremor knocked down her husband, who was working on their coffee farm in Pahala. In the store, bottles of mayonnaise and medicine from the Philippines fell off the shelves.

“Some things fell but they didn’t break,” Tabios said.

— Associated Press writers Mark Thiessen in Anchorage and Becky Bohrer in Juneau, Alaska, contributed to this report.

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