February 22nd, 2024

Magnitude 5.7 earthquake strikes Mauna Loa volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island; no tsunami expected


By Audrey Mcavoy And Jennifer Sinco Kelleher, The Associated Press on February 9, 2024.

A strong earthquake and several aftershocks hit Hawaii's Big Island Friday. (AP Graphic)

HONOLULU (AP) – A magnitude 5.7 earthquake struck the world’s largest active volcano on Friday – Mauna Loa on the Big Island of Hawaii – knocking items off shelves in nearby towns but not immediately prompting reports of serious damage. No tsunami was expected.

The earthquake, which the U.S. Geological Survey initially reported as magnitude 6.3, was centered on Mauna Loa’s southern flank at a depth of 23 miles (37 kilometers), 1.3 miles (2 kilometers) southwest of Pahala.

“It shook us bad to where it wobbled some knees a little bit,” said Derek Nelson, the manager of the Kona Canoe Club restaurant in the oceanside community of Kona, on the island’s western side. “It shook all the windows in the village.”

Mauna Loa last erupted in late 2022. It’s one of five volcanoes that make up the Big Island, which is the southernmost in the Hawaiian archipelago.

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said the earthquake was caused by the weight of the Hawaiian Islands on the Earth’s surface – a type of earthquake that occurs occasionally in the islands, which have been built by successive volcanic eruptions over millions of years.

The observatory said the earthquake didn’t affect either Mauna Loa or neighboring Kilauea volcano, and that its intensity wouldn’t damage buildings or infrastructure.

The vast majority of earthquakes in Hawaii occur on and around the Big Island, according to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. On average, about once every 1.5 years, there is an earthquake in the state that is magnitude 5 or greater, the agency said.

The Big Island is mostly rural and hosts cattle ranches, coffee farms and resort hotels. But it is also home to a few small cities, including the county seat of Hilo, which has a population of roughly 45,000.

Some shaking could be felt in Honolulu on the island of Oahu, which is about 200 miles (322 kilometers) to the north. The earthquake came shortly after 10 a.m.

Big Island Mayor Mitch Roth was in Honolulu at a cardiologist appointment and initially thought he was experiencing side effects from a procedure: “All of a sudden I felt like I was getting dizzy.”

He said he immediately got on the phone with his emergency management officials when he realized it was an earthquake, and that he was heading to the Honolulu airport to try to get an earlier flight back.

Some items fell off the shelves at Will and Grace Filipino Variety Store in Naalehu.

“Some things fell down but didn’t break,” owner Grace Tabios said, referring to jars of mayonnaise and medicine from the Philippines.

There was no damage to the store’s altar to Buddha and Santo Niño, she said, but the shaking knocked down her husband, who was working at their coffee farm in Pahala. She said her landlines weren’t working.

Julia Neal, the owner of Pahala Plantation Cottages, said a mirror and brass lamp fell down during some forceful shaking.

“We have a lot of the old wooden plantations homes and so they were rattling pretty loudly,” she said.

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

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