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Mauna Loa alert level lowered as scientists say ‘eruption may end soon’

Authorities lowered the alert level for Hawaii’s Mauna Loa volcano from a warning to a watch on Saturday as they predicted the eruption of the world’s largest active volcano could end soon.

“High eruption rates will not resume based on past eruptive behavior and current behavior suggests the eruption may soon end,” the US Geological Survey said in a bulletin released Saturday.

The new alert level reflects “limited hazards associated with current activity,” the latest update said.

The update also notes that lava production and gas emissions from the volcano have been “significantly reduced” and that a lava flow has stagnated 3 km from the Daniel K. Inouye Highway, also known as of Saddle Road, “no longer a threat”.

Earlier this month, officials warned that lava flows were heading towards the highway – which connects the east and west sides of the Big Island, acting as a thoroughfare between the cities of Hilo and Kona – sparking concerns among locals who said a road blockage would pose major challenges for travel across the island.

Hawaii Volcano Observatory scientists will continue to monitor the volcano “for any indication of a change in activity,” the US Geological Survey said.

Mauna Loa, which means “Long Mountain”, covers half the island, according to the USGS.

Its eruption began on November 27, marking its first eruption since 1984 and prompting authorities to warn residents to remain vigilant. For many Native Hawaiians, the eruption carried cultural and political symbolism given that it erupted just before Hawaii’s Independence Day.

Prior to the most recent eruption, geologists had recorded 33 eruptions since 1843, making Mauna Loa one of the most active volcanoes in the world. It is one of six volcanoes in Hawaii, according to the agency.

Corky Siemaszko contributed.

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