Fresh earthquakes have hit Hawaii's Big Island, where a volcanic eruption has forced more than 1,700 people from their homes.

The latest series of earthquakes began on Thursday with a 4.6 magnitude quake, which shook the island's active volcano Kilauea.

Image:Kilauea volcano in Hawaii has spewed lava onto this street. Pic: US Geological Survey

The volcano has been spewing ash and lava, while the earthquakes have also strengthened – the latest being a 6.9 on Friday afternoon, the largest to strike the area since a 7.5 earthquake rocked the island in 1975.

Scientists are investigating whether the earthquakes are affecting the eruption of Kilauea.

Lava flows from the volcano have covered 48 square miles, some of it in residential areas, although no injuries or deaths have been reported. Two homes have been burned down.

Lava is seen coming from a fissure in Leilani Estates subdivision on Hawaii's Big Island on May 4, 2018 0:28
Video:Earth's fire: Lava on Hawaiian street

The lava can reach temperatures of around 1,150C but some residents were taking the dangers in their stride, used to life on an island which has five active volcanoes.

Keone Kalawe, 58, who is volunteering at an evacuation centre in Pahoa, described the latest quake as "just part of life over here".

Regarding the lava, he said: "I tell people – you just have to sidestep."

Kilauea Volcano. Spatter was being thrown roughly 30m high. Pic: US Geological Survey
Image:Kilauea Volcano spattered ash roughly 30m high. Pic: US Geological Survey

One of the other concerns, however, is the high level of sulphur dioxide gas near the volcano, a major reason behind the evacuation orders.

Dr Janine Krippner, volcanologist at Concord University in West Virginia, told Sky News: "It's pretty much impossible at this time to tell how long this might go on for – specific fissures might stop or start with no warning.

"Unfortunately these fissures have opened up right inside an area where people are living, so the biggest risk right now is inundation of lava in people's homes…and the gases themselves can cause quite a bit of respiratory distress."

Volcano erupts in Hawaii
Image:Two homes have been burned down

When asked what evacuated residents might return to after the danger has passed, she said: "Unfortunately with lava flows, sometimes you can't just move back.

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"It depends how much lava comes out – there have been communities which have been completely displaced in the past.

"We really just have to wait and see and hope that people come out with their homes in tact."

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