September 26, 2007 / 12:31 AM / 12 years ago

New Zealand's Mount Ruapehu erupts

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand’s Mount Ruapehu, famed as a key location in the “Lord of the Rings” film trilogy, has erupted, spewing out ash and rock that injured one climber, officials said, adding there could be further eruptions.

The 10-minute eruption started at about 8.20 p.m. on Tuesday (4:20 a.m. EDT) and threw boulders 1-2 meters in diameter up to two kilometers from the crater, crown agency Geological and Nuclear Sciences said.

The eruption, which sent a cloud of ash and dust to a height of 15,000 feet, could signal further volcanic activity or it could be a one off event, GNS Volcanologist Steve Sherburn told Reuters.

“At the moment we don’t know which pathway we’re heading down,” Sherburn said. “If you look historically at what Ruapehu has done then you can find examples of both of these.”

The highest mountain in New Zealand’s North Island at 2,797-meters (9,177 feet), Mt Ruapehu has one of the most active crater lakes in the world. The mountain was the location of Middle Earth in the “Lord of the Rings” films.

In March a mudflow, or “lahar” flowed down the side of the mountain after the crater lake overflowed, and large eruptions in 1995 and 1996 blanketed the surrounding area in ash.

Tuesday’s eruption caused two mudflows, known as lahars, down the eastern and northern slopes of the mountain, which quickly petered out in thick snow.

Boulders thrown by the eruption crashed through the roof of a hut where four climbers were staying near the summit. One climber suffered leg injuries and was taken down the mountain to hospital.

Ruapehu District Engineer Peter Pill said the two skifields on the mountain were closed on Wednesday, with the situation to be reviewed later in the day.

In 1953 a lahar swept away a railway bridge at Tangiwai and 151 people were killed when an Auckland-to-Wellington train plunged into a river.

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