4.6-magnitude earthquake hits Hawaii amid volcanic activity

May 3 (UPI) — An earthquake struck Hawaii Thursday amid increased seismic and volcanic activity on the state’s largest island, scientists said.

A 4.6-magnitude earthquake shook Hawai’i island at around 10:30 a.m., causing rockfalls and a possible collapse into the crater of the Kilauea Volcano’s Puu O’o vent, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said.

A cloud of pink ash and smoke was sent into the air after the quake as officials warned residents along the east rift zone of the volcano to prepare to evacuate in advance of an eruption that could come with very little warning.

“People need to remain vigilant and prepared and informed, and think about their family and business and response plan,” Tina Neal, scientist-in-charge with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, said. “I know that county civil defense will be putting out their planning for a possibility for an eruption. I’d also like to emphasize that an eruption is not a certain thing.”

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park officials also blocked entry to 15,688 acres of the park as a precautionary measure.

“The recent eruption changes and increased seismicity around the East Rift Zone and Puu O’o vent may threaten land and the community outside the park. The partial closure in the park is necessary to prevent unsafe travel onto lands under the jurisdiction of Hawai’i County and to keep people safe,” said Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando.

The closure also includes access to a gravel emergency road, while Orlando added most of the park remains open.

Hawaii County also closed the Kalapana lava viewing area due to the threat of further volcanic activity.