Bay of Plenty Civil Defence Management Group says it will continue to stay in contact with GNS Science to monitor volcanic activity in the region, however a national advisory from the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management regarding Mount Tongariro’s volcanic activity has been cancelled.
The volcano’s Te Maari craters, dormant for more than a century, burst into action around midnight, throwing ash and red hot rocks skyward.
Mt Tongariro at first light this morning. Photo: Robyn Paul - Adrift Outdoors.Inset: Volcanic ash on a car at Poutu near lake Rotoaira. Photo: Ski FM
The latest assessment from GNS Science is that eruption activity has subsided. There is no ash being produced from the volcano presently.
GNS Science issued a Volcanic Alert Bulletin earlier which retains the volcanic alert level as Level 2 but increases the Aviation Colour Code from Orange to Red.
It is too early to predict the next series of events, but GNS Science expects heightened activity may continue for several weeks.
There are likely to be specific signals of future magma movement beneath the volcano and GNS Science continues to monitor the situation through the GeoNet volcano-seismic network of instruments.
It is the second episode of activity along the volcanic line, with White Island, off the Bay of Plenty coast, rumbling in recent days.
Ash has fallen in areas surrounding the mountain and is being blown east.
Civil Defence is also monitoring the situation and earlier issued a Potential Threat for the Bay of Plenty, Waikato, Hawke’s Bay, Gisborne, Manawatu and Taranaki.
Tongariro ash falls forced the closure of The Desert Road on State Highway 1, northeast of the mountain, and SH 46, to the north.
An incident management centre is set up at Whakapapa Village. Early reports were of red hot rocks being thrown out of the crater, with several loud explosions and light bursts when the eruption occurred. Ash had fallen five centimetres deep on SH46.
Turoa ski field is reported to be open.
Police were first alerted when a member of the public reported seeing an eruption on the northern face of Mount Tongariro on SH46 near Lake Rotoaira, west of Rangipo.
The man described flame like explosions and a cloud of ash coming from a new hole in the side of the mountain.
No reports of injuries or damage have been received to date but a joint agency incident management centre has been established at the Whakapapa Department of Conservation Visitor Centre.
Light ash has been reported falling on as far East as SH5 near Te Haroto and onto Napier City itself.
Mt Tongariro at first light this morning. Photo: Robyn Paul - Adrift Outdoors.
Other reports say people have fled from homes on the southern side of Lake Rotoaira and GNS Science duty volcanologist Michael Rosenberg says some residents in the Tongariro area had self-evacuated following the eruption.
The eruption had been "really unexpected".
"You can measure and monitor and monitor but sometimes mother nature will do her own thing," Rosenberg reports.
The eruption happened at the Te Mari craters, near the Ketetahi hot springs, on the northern side of the mountain.
There were five reported eruptions from the Te Mari craters between 1855 and 1897 but they had been dormant until now, the GeoNet website records.
Air New Zealand reported a number of regional domestic flights have been disrupted this morning due to the eruption.
These flights are from Auckland to Napier, Gisborne, Rotorua, Taupo, Palmerston North and Wanganui.
SH47 and 4 remain open at his stage, as does SH5.
Motorists are being advised to avoid travel in the area and these closures will be re-assessed once daylight reveals the extent of the ash cloud and other related safety risks have been assessed.
Civil Defence advice:
Civil Defence advises people experiencing ash fall to take the following precautions.
1. If possible, stay indoors: volcanic ash is a health hazard, especially if you suffer from breathing difficulty. If outside, seek shelter (e.g. in a car or building)
2. When indoors, close all windows and doors to limit the entry of volcanic ash.
3. If caught in volcanic ash falls: Wear a dust mask or use a handkerchief or cloth over your nose and mouth; protect your eyes by wearing goggles. Wear eyeglasses, NOT contact lenses as fine ash will get under the lens.
4. Listen to the radio for updated emergency information and instructions. Follow any evacuation orders issued by authorities. Refer to the back page of the Yellow Pages for evacuation advice.
5. Do not tie up phone lines with non-emergency calls.
6. Stay out of designated restricted zones. Effects of a volcanic eruption can be experienced many miles from a volcano.
Keeping watching SunLive for further updates.
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Volcanic ash on a car at Poutu near lake Rotoaira. Photo: Ski FM.