Blue burning flame of methane gas was observed in the cracks on Kahukai Street, during the overnight hours. Picture: US Geological Survey/AP
Blue burning flame of methane gas was observed in the cracks on Kahukai Street, during the overnight hours. Picture: US Geological Survey/AP
Lava erupts from fissures in the Leilani Estates subdivision near Pahoa, Hawaii. Picture: Jae C. Hong/AP
Lava erupts from fissures in the Leilani Estates subdivision near Pahoa, Hawaii. Picture: Jae C. Hong/AP
This Wednesday, May 23, 2018, photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, the active fissure complex in Kilauea Volcano's lower East Rift Zone near Pahoa, Hawaii. The volcano produces methane when hot lava buries and burns plants and trees. Scientists say the methane can seep through cracks several feet away from the lava. ( U.S. Geological Survey via AP)
This Wednesday, May 23, 2018, photo provided by the U.S. Geological Survey, the active fissure complex in Kilauea Volcano's lower East Rift Zone near Pahoa, Hawaii. The volcano produces methane when hot lava buries and burns plants and trees. Scientists say the methane can seep through cracks several feet away from the lava. ( U.S. Geological Survey via AP)
This Wednesday, May 23, 2018 photo shows a helicopter overflight of Kīlauea Volcano's lower East Rift Zone near Pahoa, Hawaii.   The volcano produces methane when hot lava buries and burns plants and trees. Scientists say the methane can seep through cracks several feet away from the lava. ( U.S. Geological Survey via AP)
This Wednesday, May 23, 2018 photo shows a helicopter overflight of Kīlauea Volcano's lower East Rift Zone near Pahoa, Hawaii. The volcano produces methane when hot lava buries and burns plants and trees. Scientists say the methane can seep through cracks several feet away from the lava. ( U.S. Geological Survey via AP)
A property is devastated by lava as fissures continue to spew lava in the Leilani Estates subdivision near Pahoa, Hawaii, Tuesday, May 22, 2018. Authorities were racing Tuesday to close off production wells at a geothermal plant threatened by a lava flow from Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
A property is devastated by lava as fissures continue to spew lava in the Leilani Estates subdivision near Pahoa, Hawaii, Tuesday, May 22, 2018. Authorities were racing Tuesday to close off production wells at a geothermal plant threatened by a lava flow from Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
A resident takes photos as fissures spew lava in the Leilani Estates subdivision near Pahoa, Hawaii, Tuesday, May 22, 2018. Authorities were racing Tuesday to close off production wells at a geothermal plant threatened by a lava flow from Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
A resident takes photos as fissures spew lava in the Leilani Estates subdivision near Pahoa, Hawaii, Tuesday, May 22, 2018. Authorities were racing Tuesday to close off production wells at a geothermal plant threatened by a lava flow from Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Fissures spew lava in the Leilani Estates subdivision near Pahoa, Hawaii, Tuesday, May 22, 2018. Authorities were racing Tuesday to close off production wells at a geothermal plant threatened by a lava flow from Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Fissures spew lava in the Leilani Estates subdivision near Pahoa, Hawaii, Tuesday, May 22, 2018. Authorities were racing Tuesday to close off production wells at a geothermal plant threatened by a lava flow from Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Fissures spew lava in the Leilani Estates subdivision near Pahoa, Hawaii, Tuesday, May 22, 2018. Authorities were racing Tuesday to close off production wells at a geothermal plant threatened by a lava flow from Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Fissures spew lava in the Leilani Estates subdivision near Pahoa, Hawaii, Tuesday, May 22, 2018. Authorities were racing Tuesday to close off production wells at a geothermal plant threatened by a lava flow from Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jim Carpenter take pictures of lava erupting from fissures in the Leilani Estates subdivision near Pahoa, Hawaii, Tuesday, May 22, 2018. Authorities were racing Tuesday to close off production wells at a geothermal plant threatened by a lava flow from Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jim Carpenter take pictures of lava erupting from fissures in the Leilani Estates subdivision near Pahoa, Hawaii, Tuesday, May 22, 2018. Authorities were racing Tuesday to close off production wells at a geothermal plant threatened by a lava flow from Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Lava erupts from fissures in the Leilani Estates subdivision near Pahoa, Hawaii, Tuesday, May 22, 2018. Authorities were racing Tuesday to close off production wells at a geothermal plant threatened by a lava flow from Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Lava erupts from fissures in the Leilani Estates subdivision near Pahoa, Hawaii, Tuesday, May 22, 2018. Authorities were racing Tuesday to close off production wells at a geothermal plant threatened by a lava flow from Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
A a geothermal plant is seen from the Leilani Estates subdivision near Pahoa, Hawaii, Tuesday, May 22, 2018. Authorities were racing Tuesday to close off production wells at the plant threatened by a lava flow from Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
A a geothermal plant is seen from the Leilani Estates subdivision near Pahoa, Hawaii, Tuesday, May 22, 2018. Authorities were racing Tuesday to close off production wells at the plant threatened by a lava flow from Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Honolulu — Blue flames from burning methane are the latest natural phenomena being seen at the eruption of the Kilauea volcano in Hawaii.

Nighttime photos released Wednesday by the US Geological Survey show the flames spouting from cracks in the pavement in the Leilani Estates neighbourhood where the volcano has been gushing lava on the big island of Hawaii for the past three weeks.

The volcano produces methane when hot lava buries and burns plants and trees.

"The methane gas will flow through the ground, through the cracks that are already existing, and will come up wherever there's a place for them to come up," said Wendy Stovall, a scientists with the US Geological Survey.

The methane can seep through cracks several feet away from the lava. It can also cause explosions when it's ignited while trapped underground. These blasts can toss blocks several feet away, Stovall said.

Hawaii County has ordered about 2 000 people to evacuate from Leilani Estates and surrounding neighbourhoods since the eruption began on May 3.

Read more: Workers race against time as lava creeps onto geothermal plant site

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The volcano has opened more than 20 vents in the ground that have released lava, sulfur dioxide and steam. The lava has been pouring down the flank of the volcano and into the ocean miles away.

The eruption has destroyed 50 buildings, including about two dozen homes. One person was seriously injured after being hit by a flying piece of lava.

Stovall said lava spatter from one of the vents was forming a wall that was helping protect a nearby geothermal plant.

Lava from that vent was shooting further into the air and producing the highest lava wall of all the vents, which was blocking molten rock from flowing north toward the plant.

Officials shut down Puna Geothermal shortly after the current eruption began.

On Tuesday, officials finished plugging wells that bring up hot liquid and steam to feed a turbine generator. Earlier this month they removed a flammable gas called pentane from the plant to reduce the chance of explosions.

Associated Press