The Mount Ruapehu volcano staged a spectacular eight-hour eruption today, tossing red-hot rocks and glowing ash into the predawn sky.
The eruption, following several days of little activity, threw an ash plume 7 miles into the air, volcanologists said. A layer of ash and dust up to two inches thick was deposited on farmland and highways, and dust fell as far as 38 miles away.
Bruce Houghton, a government scientist, said it was the most prolonged and sustained eruption since violent volcanic activity began Sept. 25.
Ruapehu is located in a sparsely populated area in the center of New Zealand’s North Island. No one has been injured during the three-week series of eruptions.
Only one side of the volcano is affected. Ski runs on the peak’s quiet side are now open.
Airports at nearby Taupo and the east coast city of Gisborne were closed. Aviation officials ordered planes flying between the main cities, Auckland and Wellington, to divert around the site.