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Search for hikers after Mount Tongariro erupts

Search for hikers after Mount Tongariro erupts
August 7, 2012

Search and rescue crews in New Zealand are checking for hikers on Mount Tongariro after the volcano erupted overnight for the first time in 115 years.

According to GNS Science, the eruption happened at around 11.50pm at the Te Maari craters near the Ketetahi hot springs, on the northern side of the mountain.

People near the volcano in the central North Island have reported hearing loud explosions and seeing flames, bright flashes, and red-hot rocks flying from the mountain's north side.

Police say there are no reports of death or injury.

Mount Tongariro is a popular hiking destination and searchers are checking huts this morning.

Ash has fallen as far away as Napier, 100 kilometres to the south-east, with up to five centimetres of ash reported in some areas.

Air New Zealand has cancelled flights to and from airports east of the volcano, including Gisborne, Rotorua and Taupu while residents are being urged to stay indoors with windows closed.

GNS Volcanologist Michael Rosenberg told Radio Australia's Pacific Beat the eruptions have stopped for the moment, stating "the initial ash eruption probably lasted a couple of hours, at the moment things are fairly quiet.

Rosenborg stated that the volcanic activity at Mount Tongariro could continue for weeks, months or even years, telling TV ONE's Breakfast that he can "definitely not say it is over", despite volcanic activity now being "quiet".

Rosenborg added "this might just be a quiet period and we should expect it to start again at any time. So we are watching things very closely.

"Over the last three or four weeks we've been recording very small volcanic earthquakes underneath the mountain, but in the last week or so there've been far fewer of those earthquakes, and much much smaller."

Flights from Auckland to Wellington have not been affected, as they fly at a higher altitude than the ash.



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