Second NZ volcano ‘burps’

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iol pic wld  Mount Tongariro AFP Steam gushes from the blackened slopes of Mount Tongariro two days after its erupted.

Mount Tongariro, New Zealand -

A second volcano in New Zealand threatened to rumble to life on Wednesday, a day after a long-dormant mountain that was the backdrop to “The Lord of the Rings” movies erupted.

GNS Science reported no fresh convulsions at the Mount Tongariro volcano, which sent a plume of ash 6 100 metres into the atmosphere, showering the North Island and disrupting domestic air travel.

But a monitoring camera showed White Island, just off the coast, had experienced a small eruption that was probably unrelated to Tongariro, said Craig Miller, a volcanologist with GNS, the official monitoring body.

“The crater-rim camera appears to be splattered with mud/ash this morning, so it seems there has been some kind of burp,” he said.

Around the remote Tongariro volcano - which officials say could erupt again without warning at any time - residents cleaned up the ash that spewed early on Tuesday.

Heavy rain washed away much of the fine silt, causing streams to run grey, but residents said the powdery substance seeped into homes even when doors and windows were sealed.

Air travel, which was disrupted across much of the North Island because of the risk posed by volcanic ash, returned to normal, as the remnants of the cloud washed out to sea overnight.

In Wellington, more than 250 kilometres from the volcano, a smell of sulphur from gases expelled by the volcano hung in the air for most of the morning.

“It was like sewage, really unpleasant,” Wellington resident Carole Burke said. “It was so strong I thought Tongariro must have gone off again.”

Three new steam vents had opened up in the side of the mountain, officials said, which until this week had been inactive since 1897.

New Zealand lies on the so-called “Pacific Ring of Fire”, where the Earth's tectonic plates collide, making it a hotspot for earthquakes and volcanic activity.

One of the country's deadliest disasters occurred in 1953, when debris from an eruption at Mount Ruapehu, also in central North Island, downed a rail bridge, leading to a train derailment that claimed 151 lives.

Mount Tarawera, in the same area, erupted in 1886, with a death toll estimated at 120-150 people. - Sapa-AFP


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