Dozens of earthquakes rattled Hawaii’s Kīlauea Volcano as underground magma moved into a new area which is located in the east of Puʻu ʻŌʻō, a volcanic cone in the eastern rift zone of the Kīlauea volcano of the Hawaiian Islands, the United States Geological Survey’s (USGS) Hawaiian Volcano Observatory officials said Wednesday.

They added the increased activity in the area was a result of “the collapse of the crater floor” at Puʻu ʻŌʻō, which was also an open vent below Kīlauea summit crater and molten lava. 

About 50 quakes were detected in the area Wednesday morning alone, Mercury News reported. Scientists believe the increased activity in the area may most likely trigger a new eruption, and residents in the area were warned to keep their distance. 

USGS also confirmed they were sending two ground crew teams into the area to install new equipment to better monitor the conditions. 

Additionally, the Hawaii Department of Education closed down a school in the area near the volcano, citing ongoing seismic activity as the reason behind it. 

Hawaii’s mayor’s office also released a statement regarding the same, confirming the county, state as well as federal officials were making preparations for a likely eruption.

“The preparations include the identification of shelters, mobilization of police and other security personnel to ensure residents’ safety, and road crews to ensure access to evacuation routes,” the statement read. 

Civil Defense Administrator Talmadge Magno also released a statement saying, “Should an eruption occur, residents along the East Rift Zone may have little warning. Residents in that area should be prepared to evacuate.” 

Reports stated the Puʻu ʻŌʻō crater zone first began to collapse Monday, in turn, triggering a series of earthquakes in the area, thus pushing the molten lava into new underground chambers. 

“Overnight it continued to push farther to the east, and so it’s still very much an ongoing situation,” Babb said. “Highway 130 crosses right over the East Rift Zone, so our best estimate is that it has extended beyond the area of Highway 130,” USGS geologist Janet Babb said. 

In response to this, as a precautionary measure, the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency shut down the area for visitors Tuesday and forbid tour companies from taking people into the region.

“Residents should heed all advice offered by Civil Defense and take the actions recommended by Civil Defense to prepare for a possible eruption. An eruption is possible because magma is clearly moving through the East Rift Zone and it could come to the surface. The possibility is definitely there, I can’t give you a probability,” Babb added. 

Before the concerns Wednesday, most of Kīlauea’s activities by far have reportedly been non-explosive except for the 1924 eruption that not only spewed ash but also 10 tons of rocks into the sky.