Date: 07 August 2012 Source: New Zealand Police/Department of Conservation
The Department of Conservation, supported by Police, GNS, Ngati Tuwharetoa and other local agencies, are working to assess the extent of a volcanic eruption at Te Maari Crater, Tongariro overnight.
The eruption, which is being described by GNS as a small scale hydrothermal event, occurred around 11.50 pm. There were reports of ash and rock being ejected within a 1 km radius of the crater.
There have been no reports of any injuries or medical conditions as a result of the eruption. As a precaution, due to poor visibility, SH1 and SH46 were closed until daylight when the area could be assessed. All roads in the area are now open.
The impact is localised. Twenty-four residents from the SH46 area self-evacuated to Hirangi Marae. Most have returned to their homes this morning. Some stock was moved to areas less affected by ash.
Residents in the local area have been advised to check for water supplies affected by ash and for those on tank water to disconnect. The ash can be an irritant for people with a pre-existing respiratory problems, but no reports have been received of any issues.
Police, DOC and search and rescue volunteers went into the area to check the local tracks and huts. Three men were walked out from Mangatepopo Hut which was unaffected. No-one was occupying the other three huts.
The Tongariro Crossing is currently closed and will be reviewed on a daily basis. Mount Ruapehu ski-fields are unaffected by the eruption. Walks around Mount Ruapehu are also unaffected.
DOC Area Manager Ruapehu Dr Nic Peet said: "Our priority is public safety and providing reassurance to those affected. The situation is very much a localised situation and we have the Police and scientists working closely with us to ensure our response is at the appropriate level."