Mount Tongariro spewed ash and rocks for about 30 minutes late Monday night after a few weeks of increased seismic activity. It didn’t cause any injuries or damage in the sparsely populated central North Island region. Tongariro National Park has three active volcanos, is a popular tourist destination and was the backdrop for many scenes in the “Lord of the Rings” movies.
Some residents left their homes as a precaution, and authorities temporarily closed roads. National carrier Air New Zealand canceled or delayed domestic flights to towns near the mountain, though by Tuesday afternoon, it said it was resuming service to locations where the ash cloud had cleared. No international flights were affected.
Police said a witness to the eruption described flashes and explosions followed by a cloud of ash coming from a hole in the north face of the mountain. The Department of Conservation said three hikers were staying in a hut on the opposite slope of Mount Tongariro when it erupted but they walked out of the area safely.