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Tongariro eruption 'just another cloud'

[link to www.nbr.co.nz]


Lake Taupo’s annual cycle challenge is under way, with Mt Tongariro’s latest eruption looking "just like another cloud".

GeoNet says the mountain erupted at 1.30pm today – almost four months since an eruption in the same area on Te Maari crater.

Air New Zealand says flights operating to some airports east of Mt Tongariro may be delayed or cancelled as a result of the eruption.

The earlier eruption closed the Tongariro alpine crossing until Labour weekend.

The Lake Taupo cycle challenge began at midday with the enduro riders starting the first of their eight laps of the lake.

Within minutes of the eruption, organiser Hayden Dickason had more marshals out on the course to warn the cyclists of the volcanic activity and to check which direction the wind was blowing.

He says he needs to keep a watch on any ash, because he does not want riders breathing it in.

Mr Dickason told NBR ONLINE he has a contingency plan in place.

The majority of the 8500 entrants will ride just one lap of the lake on Saturday.

“For event day itself, in the unlikely event something big happens we’ve definitely got contingency plans in place to alert people straight away.

"Obviously, we also work with civil defence and police. Should the untoward happen when we need to hold the ride, we’ve got destinations around the lake where people can gather.”

Mr Dickason says he saw the eruption from his office window and because the mountain was covered in cloud at that stage,it just looked like another cloud peeping out the top.

Civil defence has issued a volcanic activity warning and says light volcanic ash fall can be anticipated downwind of Tongariro and may affect Waikato, Hawke’s Bay, Gisborne and Bay of Plenty.

Civil defence says more information will come later in the day from the Department of Conservation and other local authorities with up on the mountain.

Air New Zealand says it is working closely with the Civil Aviation Authority, the MetService and other authorities to keep up to date with ash movement and forecasts.

General manager airline operations and safety, Captain David Morgan, who is also chief pilot, says they are working with the relevant authorities to safely make adjustments to flight routes to ensure aircraft remain clear of any ash.

Passengers are advised to check the Air NZ website for flight arrivals and departures information.
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