From: Reuters
Published May 12, 2008 08:56 PM

New Zealand volcano more unsettled: scientists

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Volcanic activity at New Zealand's Mount Ruapehu is increasing and an eruption could occur at any time, scientists warned on Tuesday. The volcano in central North Island, famed as a location in the "Lord of the Rings" film trilogy, last erupted on September 25 2007, spitting 2 meter (6 feet) boulders distances of up to 2 km (1.5 miles).

Ruapehu's elevated alert level has not been changed, but scientists said on Tuesday that activity within the mountain was greater, with high levels of gas spewing out, a warmer than average crater lake and ongoing volcanic tremors.

"The volcano remains in a status of unrest and the possibility of further activity remains. If further eruptions occur, they may occur without warning," Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS) said in a statement.

Last September's eruption injured a climber after a boulder crashed through the roof of a hut near the summit where a party of four climbers were staying.

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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.

In March 2007 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.

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

(Reporting by Adrian Bathgate; Editing by Michael Perry)

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