Just prior to midnight the Police Central Communications Centre received a call from a member of the public who reported seeing an eruption on the northern face of Mount Tongariro from his location on SH46, near Lake Rotoaira, West of Rangipo.
He described seeing flame like explosions and a cloud of ash coming from “a new hole in the side of the Mountain”.
No reports of injuries or damage has been received to date but a joint agency incident management centre has been established at the Whakapapa Department of Conservation Visitor Centre.
GNS Science is monitoring the seismic activity on the Mountain and DOC and Police staff are preparing to check nearby tramping huts at first light.
No further volcanic activity on the mountain has been reported since that initial call to police.
Light ash has been reported falling on SH’s 1, and 46 and as far East as SH5 near Te Haroto and onto Napier City itself.
Due to possible danger to the public Police have closed SH1 between Rangipo and Waiouru (Desert Road) and
SH46 West of Rangipo. SH47 and 4 remain open at this stage as does SH5.
Motorists are being advised to avoid travel in the area and these closures will be re-assessed once daylight reveals the extent of the ash cloud and other related safety risks have been assessed.
Source: New Zealand Police.