A view of Tongariro about 1.30pm, shortly after the eruption. Photo by Geonet.
Mount Tongariro has erupted, sending a massive plume of ash
The eruption came from Te Maari crater, on the western side
of the mountain, about 1.30pm.
A massive plume of ash could be seen coming from the
GNS Science duty volcanologist Nico Fournier told APNZ the
eruption happened about 1.20pm.
"There was one eruption, essentially one explosion, and it
was not sustained. It spewed some ash possibly a couple of
kilometres up the air. The ash is now drifting to the
Dr Fournier said the eruption was not very loud and was
smaller than an earlier eruption in August.
Dr Fournier was a few kilometres away when the eruption
happened and said while he was safe, he had "a good view of
"It was remarkable a few minutes ago, now it's dying off," he
said about 20 minutes after the explosion.
"When it happened you had a column of the ash which spewed in
the air vertically, and then essentially the source of that
eruption just stopped."
The ash was now drifting away, he said.
Tongariro, in the centre of the North Island, erupted in
August for the first time in 115 years, sending ash as far
east as Napier.
According to GeoNet, Tongariro is a complex of multiple
volcanic cones constructed over a period of 275,000 years.
The mountain's active vents include Te Maari, Emerald, North
Crater and Red Crater.
Last week GNS Science increased the likelihood of
neighbouring volcano Mt Ruapehu erupting, following increased
activity on the mountain.
GNS Science has increased the aviation colour code from
yellow to red following the eruption. The red status means an
eruption ``is forecast to be imminent with significant
emission of ash into the atmosphere likely''.
A police spokesman said Desert Road remains open.
Adrift NZ, which runs tours of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing,
had around 50 people on the mountain today.
Operator Stewart Barclay, who chairs a group of 30 users of
Mt Tongariro, was heading to Mt Tongariro to help his guides
and their groups off the mountain.
"I'm just going to make sure everyone is safe ... from my
guide's perspective and from what I've heard, it seems
Mr Barclay understood the eruption had launched no
projectiles into the air.
"I've just talked to one of my guides and he is taking the
safe route out. There was a minor amount of panic and
everyone is safe now, there were no injuries.''
Dr Fournier said there was "quite a bit of gas'' but it was
The next step was to work with the Department of Conservation
(DoC) and authorities to make sure people in the area were
"That's going to be the top thing, so right now we are
actually with DoC and liaising with the authorities just to
make sure that everybody is aware that there was an eruption,
how big it was and where the ash is going.
"Then the authorities will take it from there, if there is
any action to be made.
"But at the moment it's probably much less of a big eruption
than it was in early August.''
The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management issued
a national advisory just under an hour after the eruption.
It said "minor volcanic activity'' at Tongariro's Te Maari
craters could be hazardous in the immediate vicinity.
Light volcanic ashfall was anticipated downwind of Tongariro
and could fall in Waikato, Hawkes Bay, Gisborne and Bay of
People living in or near the affected areas were advised to
stay indoors and close windows and doors if ash fell. People
who were outdoors should seek shelter.
Civil Defence said ash could be a health hazard, especially
for people suffering breathing difficulties.
People affected by ashfall should wear a dust mask cover
their nose and mouth and protect their eyes.
A woman who lives near the mountain said sulphur-smelling ash
had been raining down on her home.
Robyn Bennett, who lives 6km from the mountain, said she
could see the plume of ash rising into the sky.
"It's sitting under some cloud and that's why it's pushing
down onto us," she said.
"It smells worse than rotten eggs.''
Ms Bennett said the eruption was silent.
She said she spotted a vent today that wasn't there
She didn't think she and her husband would need to evacuate,
"not unless she starts spewing out a whole lot of red rocks",
but they were waiting to hear from Civil Defence or the
Department of Conservation.
Ms Bennett was not worried about the eruption.
"Why worry? You haven't got time to worry at this stage.''
The ash was drifting south east towards Mt Pihanga, she said.