Train service between New Zealand’s two biggest cities was canceled and air traffic diverted Monday because of an erupting volcano that belched ash, steam and car-sized rocks into the sky.
Authorities also closed the highway around Mount Ruapehu and the ski resorts on its slopes. Eruptions from the Crater Lake area were occurring every two to three minutes, and scientists said a major eruption may be near.
Civil Defense officials warned people living within 60 miles downwind to expect heavy ash falls from the 9,000-foot peak, which is midway between Auckland and the capital, Wellington.
Rescue services at the Waiouru military base, 12 miles from the volcano, were placed on full alert, and wives and children at the base were evacuated.
Falling ash settling on power lines was causing power surges throughout the North Island, the utility Trans Power said.