Hawaii's Big Island on high alert

Hawaii's Big Island is on high alert after the Kilauea volcano spewed lava into residential areas forcing hundreds to evacuate, and a series of earthquakes, including a powerful tremor, shook the island.

On Saturday three more homes were reported destroyed bringing the total to five, said Janet Snyder, a spokeswoman for the mayor of Hawaii County, as eruptions continued following a 6.9 tremor that rocked the island's southeast corner at midday on Friday.

The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory said at midday local time on Saturday that "eruptive activity is increasing and is expected to continue".

The US Geological Survey (USGS) said on Saturday that several new lava fissures had opened in the Leilani Estates subdivision of Puna District, about 20km from the volcano. Not all the fissures were still active, it added.

"Until we see earthquake activity dying down and the ground stops moving, it's likely that this activity is going to continue," said Tina Neal, a scientist in charge at the USGS Hawaii Volcano Observatory, after a community meeting attended by about 300 people on Friday.

Two evacuation centres were hastily set up in Pahoa town after lava started burbling up through fissures in the ground in neighbourhoods nearby.

Although no significant lava flows have yet formed, additional outbreaks of lava, which can reach temperatures of about 1150 Celsius, were expected, the Hawaii County Civil Defense Agency said.