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Residents flee for their lives on Hawaii's Big Island as lava bubbles through streets

Thousands of Hawaiians packed their bags and fled with their lives after a huge volcano eruption on the Big Island saw lava bubbling through village streets.

Nearly 1,500 residents were ordered to evacuate their homes after Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano erupted. Miraculously there were no immediate reports of injuries.

Mobile phone footage showed lava bubbling out of a crack at the end of a road in the community of Leilani Estates near the town of Pahoa, with residents escaping in a calm panic.

Lava is shown burning near the town of Pahoa on the Big Island, Hawaii. Credit: AP

The US Geological Survey said new ground cracks were reported on Thursday afternoon with hot vapour emerging from cracks and spattering lava.

A magnitude 5.0 earthquake was recorded hours before the eruption began.

The Puu Oo crater floor began to collapse on Monday, triggering a series of earthquakes and pushing the lava into new underground chambers.

The collapse caused magma to push more than 10 miles (16km) downslope toward the populated south east coastline of the island.

Drone footage showed a line of lava snaking through a forest. Credit: U.S. Geological Survey via AP

Leilani Estates appeared to be at greatest risk, but scientists said new vents and outbreaks could occur and it is not possible to say where.

Scientists said areas downslope of the erupting vent were at risk of being completely covered by lava.

A plume of ash rises from the Puu Oo crater on Hawaii’s Kilaueaa Volcano. Credit: US Geolgogical Survey via AP

Resident Jeremiah Osuna captured drone footage of the lava burning through the trees, a scene he described as a “curtain of fire”.

“It sounded like if you were to put a bunch of rocks into a dryer and turn it on as high as you could. You could just smell sulfur and burning trees and underbrush and stuff,” he told Honolulu television station KHON.

An ash plume rises above the Puu Oo crater, on Hawaii's Kilaueaa Volcano. Credit: U.S. Geological Survey via AP

Asta Miklius, a geophysicist with the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, said there is no way to know exactly how long the eruption will continue.

“One of the parameters is going to be whether the summit magma reservoir starts to drain in response to this event, and that has not happened yet,” he said.

“There is quite a bit of magma in the system. It won’t be just an hours-long eruption probably, but how long it will last will depend on whether the summit magma reservoir gets involved. And so we are watching that very, very closely.”

Dozens of earthquakes have rattled Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano in recent days. Credit: U.S. Geological Survey via AP

County, state and federal officials had been warning residents all week that they should be prepared to evacuate, as an eruption would give little warning.

Officials at the US Geological Survey raised the volcano alert level to warning status, the highest possible.

Lava has caused devastation in Hawaii but ash clouds are considered to inflict greater damage. Credit: U.S. Geological Survey via AP