A second volcano in New Zealand has experienced a small eruption just days after Mount Tongariro burst into life for the first time in more than a century.
The volcanic White Island, which is located just off the coast of the North Island, produced “some kind of burp” on Wednesday, although experts do not believe it is related to the earlier eruption.
Craig Miller, of official monitoring body GNS Science told AFP: “The crater-rim camera appears to be splattered with mud/ash this morning, so it seems there has been some kind of burp.”
It comes at an uncertain time for residents who live around Mt Tongariro, who have been told the volcano, which was a backdrop to The Lord Of The Rings movies, could erupt again at any point.
Thick grey ash covered the area around the volcano for several miles, and the debris rained down for 30 minutes.
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Volcanologist Michael Rosenberg told Radio New Zealand: "For the moment, things are quiet but it doesn't necessarily mean that the eruption is over and done with.
"It could reactivate at any time so we're watching pretty closely.
"It's possible that this could be the start of a much longer episode, or alternatively it could be the end. We just don't know."
Scientists have recorded increased seismic activity since July, but were taken by surprise by the small-scale eruption, which they believe was driven by steam pressure inside the mountain, rather than molten rock.
The Ministry of Civil Defense and Emergency Management advised residents of five nearby communities to stay indoors and to protect their eyes, mouth and nose if they were caught in volcanic ash.
Mt Tongariro last erupted from November 1896 until October 1897.
Hundreds of travellers have been stranded by the volcanic ash, causing Air Zealand flights to be cancelled.
Locals said no-one had been injured and no property damaged, apart from dirty ash on clothing, buildings and vehicles, but there was a "sulphur" smell in the air.