June 19, 1996 in Nation/World

New Zealand Volcano Erupts Closing Airports, Schools

Compiled From Wire Services

Mount Ruapehu tossed huge billowing clouds of volcanic ash and hot gas miles into the sky Tuesday, forcing five airports to close and wreaking havoc on travelers’ schedules.

Plumes of black, brown and gray smoke soared eight miles high above the 9,176-foot snowcapped volcano on New Zealand’s North Island, and strong tremors were felt up to 25 miles away. Rumblings deep within the earth were heard 40 miles away.

No injuries or major damage were reported. But dozens of aircraft were grounded, diverted or turned back, causing chaos for thousands of travelers, particularly at Auckland International Airport, 160 miles north of the eruption.

Airports at Rotorua, Hamilton, Tauranga, Whangarei also were shut down.

Towns and farmland downwind to the north have been blanketed by ash, and some schools were closed after the ash triggered breathing problems in many children.

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