WELLINGTON, New Zealand – A volcano has erupted on New Zealand’s North Island, spreading a layer of thick ash for several miles and causing some nearby residents to evacuate their homes. Some domestic flights were canceled.
Scientists noticed increased seismic activity below Mount Tongariro for weeks but got no specific warning before the volcano blew late Monday night. The eruption of ash and rocks lasted about 30 minutes and didn’t cause any injuries or damage in the sparsely populated central North Island region, which is a designated national park.
The park is a popular tourist destination and formed the backdrop for many scenes in the “Lord of the Rings” movies.
The eruption did prompt some nearby residents to evacuate their homes as a precautionary measure, and caused authorities to temporarily close roads. Police said a witness described flashes and explosions followed by a cloud of ash coming from a hole in the north face of the mountain.
Steve Sherburn, a volcanologist at the government agency GNS Science, said the eruption spread a layer of ash one or two inches thick for several miles. He said the eruption was likely caused by steam pressure building within the mountain before bursting through the ground.