After hundreds of small earthquakes, scientists and residents are preparing for an eruption on Hawaii’s Big Island.
The U.S. Geological Survey has issued a volcano watch for Kilauea Volcano, urging residents to prepare for evacuation as the eruption could come with “very little warning,” the Hawaii Civil Defense Agency said.
An open vent below Kilaueau’s lava lake collapsed on Monday, triggering earthquakes and pushing magma in new underground chambers towards the island’s Puna district.
In anticipation of the eruption, authorities at Hawaii’s Volcanoes National Park have closed more than 16,000 acres of land, including the Kalapan viewing point, which can draw up to 2,000 visitors per day. Visitors have been warned to stay away in case of eruption. Boat and hiking tours have been suspended in anticipation of the eruption, according to Associated Press.
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In the last 24 hours, there have been almost 70 earthquakes with a magnitude of 2.5 or greater.
Small ground cracks less than a few inches wide developed Wednesday on roads near the volcano, reflecting “the buildup of stress at the surface due to magma intrusion,” the U.S. Geological survey said.
Research geophysicist at the Hawaii Volcano Observatory Jim Kauahikaua told Hawaii News Now that the current seismic activity is similar to that of an eruption in 1955 when 24 separate volcanic vents opened for three months. Almost 4,000 acres of land were covered in lava.
The last time an eruption affected the district of Puna was in 2014 when lava poured onto streets, damaging structures and causing emergency evacuations. Roads were closed for weeks in the area.