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Mount Tongariro tracks to re-open

Published: 7:12AM Wednesday August 08, 2012 Source: ONE News

The Department of Conservation is looking to reopen tracks and huts on Mt Tongariro after an eruption at the volcano on Monday night.

There has been little seismic activity on the mountain today, prompting Civil Defence to cancel its volcano threat warning and to re-open the Tama Lakes walking track from Whakapapa Village tomorrow.

The Department of Conservation had the chance today to see the damage caused to a hut near the crater and to walking trails on the popular Tongariro Crossing Alpine Track.

The 26-bed Ketetahi hut has suffered significant damage to its roof, has broken windows and its guttering is damaged.

The Tongariro Crossing remained closed today as boulders damaged walking tracks during the eruption.

Media also had a first-hand look at the active Mount Tongariro crater for the first time. ONE News footage shows three new steam vents have opened on the side of the mountain, causing plumes of steam to rise metres into the air. 

A two kilometre debris flow, consisting of mud and rock, has also been created by the force of the explosion.

Three new lakes have been created, raising the possibility that more rain could burst banks.

Despite the lack of activity, scientists say a violent eruption could still occur without warning. 

Smell reaches Wellington

The distinct smell of sulphur from the Mt Tongariro eruption has wafted towards the South Island.

And the smell of sulphur has been reported in the capital with Wellingtonians taking to Twitter to describe the "stinky" smell.

"You can smell the volcano outside today - even here in Island Bay, Wellington. It's a bit stinky," tweeted Jayne Fox.

Tongariro 'quiet' before explosion

Auckland University Associate Professor of Geology Dr Phil Shane said GNS scientists saw an increase in seismic activity at Mt Tongariro recently but the volcano was quiet just before the explosion.

"It shows that there isn't always often a fool-proof way of predicting these things," said Shane.

"What we would say is we are in a zone of heightened activity, not to say it will erupt immediately, but we are in a time where we should keep a closer eye than normal."

Shane said it was too simplistic to say if heightened volcanic activity at White Island and Monday night's explosion at Mt Tongariro were related as volcanoes tended to behave independently.

He said Auckland's myriad of volcanoes are very unlikely to be activated by seismic activity in the Central Plateau.

Meanwhile in Bay of Plenty volcanologists are keeping a vigilant watch on White Island where activity has been increasing.

The island has been spewing ash for the first time in 12 years.

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