New Zealand's White Island Volcano, off the Bay of Plenty Coast, erupted on Tuesday morning, Aug 20, at 10:23 am. The eruption, which sent steam into the air reaching 4 kilometres above sea level, lasts for about 10 minutes.
Nico Fournier, GeoNet duty volcanologist, said the eruption started in the active crater areas that in recent weeks had very small mud eruptions. He said the volcanic activity threw mud and rocks at a short distance and produced large amounts of white steam, while weather radar observations said a small proportion of the volcanic ash was carried with the steam.
The volcano had low-level activity since August 2012, Mr Fournier said, adding that the eruption on Tuesday morning was not completely unexpected.
Volcanic activity has subsided and the aviation alert code was reduced to orange from red, which stands for heightened unrest.
A boat full of tourists who were visiting the island witnessed the phenomenon, said White Island Tours Marketing Manager Patrick O'Sullivan. He said based on contacts with two other helicopter tourism enterprises that specialises in White Island tours, there was no one on the island when the eruption occurred.
The eruption came within two days after Mount Sakurajima in Japan also erupted and several earthquakes rocked New Zealand last week and the past weeks.
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