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Eruption of New Zealand's Tongariro volcano sends ash plume into air


A general view of Mt Ruapehu from Waiouru after Mt Tongariro erupted for the first time in over 100 years on August 7, 2012 in Tongariro National Park, New Zealand.


Hagen Hopkins

The second eruption this year of New Zealand's Tongariro volcano sent dark ash two miles into the sky, frightening tourists and causing flight cancelations but no significant damage.

According to Britain's Daily Mail, the volcano — located in a remote part of the country's North Island — featured in the "Lord of the Rings" films and has been dubbed "Mount Doom."

Up to 90 school children — walking a popular tourist route, the Tongariro Track, less than half a mile away — were shaken, but safe, the Daily Mail wrote.

The paper quoted Tamatea Intermediate School teacher Lomi Schaumkel as saying:

"We were right up there next to it. It was just amazing. We were probably only a kilometer away from it. We were right next to one of the signs saying we were out of the danger zone. We saw all these tourists running away from it. We didn't stick around long."

APNZ cited police Inspector Steve Bullock as saying that while there were no road closures, he would "discourage" sightseers from traveling to the area.

A no-fly alert was issued for the area above the volcano and its Te Maari Crater.

National carrier Air New Zealand advised that some of its flights could be delayed or canceled, though only two flights had been canceled by mid-afternoon, an airline spokeswoman told the Associated Press.

GNS Science duty volcanologist Nico Fournier told APNZ there was one eruption, "essentially one explosion, and it was not sustained," and smaller than the earlier eruption in August.

Last week GNS Science increased the likelihood of neighboring volcano Mt Ruapehu erupting, following increased activity on the mountain according to Fairfax New Zealand.

GNS, which constantly monitors Ruapehu, discovered over the last few weeks that the chemistry inside the Crater Lake were changing.

Tongariro erupted intermittently from 1855 to 1897, the AP wrote. While it is not deemed an immediate threat, the latest eruption of Tongariro could signal weeks, months or even years of volcanic activity, the news agency added. 

The country's Conservation Department issued a warning for hikers and climbers to avoid the summit, a mile from the center of the Crater Lake.