Mount Tongariro exploded into life — the first eruption by this rock behemoth in 115 years. Although the incident was ranked as a hydrothermal eruption — meaning that it was fuelled by trapped steam rather than magma — it was sufficiently powerful to send an ash cloud five miles into the atmosphere.
Air space in an eight-mile radius around the volcano was immediately closed. The national airline Air New Zealand was forced to cancel flights to towns on the country’s North Island — including Gisborne, Rotorua, Taupo, Palmerston North and Napier.
Services to the larger cities of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch were also affected. The ash cloud subsequently drifted east over the Pacific Ocean — and air services have resumed.
However, the New Zealand government has warned that – even though the volcano had sat dormant for over a century ahead of yesterday’s eruption – further activity is possible.