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A Rare Pink Ash Cloud Rose From A Volcano In Hawaii And People Thought It Was Both Beautiful And Terrifying

An earthquake shook the Big Island amid increased activity from Kilauea volcano, causing an unusual pink plume of ash to rise into the air.

Posted on May 3, 2018, at 10:05 p.m. ET

On the Big Island of Hawaii, residents and tourists have been on alert after a volcano crater collapsed and hundreds of small earthquakes rattled the area, increasing the possibility of an eruption.

Kevan Kamibayashi / AP

On Thursday morning, a magnitude 5.0 earthquake shook the Big Island, causing a giant plume of pink smoke to rise from the volcano.

4.6 magnitude earthquake just happened on Big Island of #hawaii as plum of pink smoke can be seen coming from #mountkilauea #volcano.

Residents and tourists shared images of the unusual event, which was caused by the strong earthquake sending rocks and debris that are a reddish-brown color to rise thousands of feet into the air above the volcano.

The plume dissipated as it drifted southwest, dropping ash along the way.

Janice Wei

"This is not the first time we've seen something like this," said Janet Babb, a geologist at the United States Geological Survey, but it is the first time it has been observed on the island in more than two decades.

#PunaLavaThreat LATEST: USGS HVO just updated the earthquake to 5.0 magnitude. Officials believe Puʻu ʻŌʻō Crater experienced anotjer collapse and the pink flume was ash released into the air. Stay tuned to @HawaiiNewsNow #HINews #HawaiiNews

Thursday’s quake was the largest of hundreds of small temblors to hit the island over the past few days.

#PunaLavaThreat #HappeningNow: Minutes after a 4.6 magnitude earthquake rocked East Hawaiʻi Island this pink plume of smoke filled the sky & was captured by residents from Volcano to Pāhoa. We’re awaiting word from officials. Watch here👉🏽 @HawaiiNewsNow

The increased seismic activity started Monday when the Pu'u O'o vent, located at the Kilauea volcano’s east rift zone, experienced a crater floor collapse, causing magma to rush into new underground chambers.

Babb told BuzzFeed News that the earthquake Thursday did not significantly change the volcano’s activity and therefore did not warrant an increase of a volcanic threat.

An eruption is possible, although it has not happened yet, Babb told BuzzFeed News.

Residents of Hawaii’s Puna, the district where the magma is now flowing underground, have been advised to "remain alert" and should be prepared to evacuate.

County officials closed a portion of the road in Puna Wednesday after it was damaged by the quake swarm, but it was reopened Thursday.

A small section of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was also closed, although the majority of the new volcanic activity is outside of the area. Hawaii County officials also closed a lava viewing area in Kalapana, located in lower Puna.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

"The magma has remained below ground, but it has migrated down the Rift Zone and it is near residential areas, so there is concern," Babb told BuzzFeed News. "Not every intrusion ends up producing volcanic activity at the surface, but that can happen, so eruption is possible."

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.