Dormant Volcano Erupts Without Warning: Big Pic

A general view of Mt Ruapehu from Waiouru after Mt Tongariro erupted for the first time in over 100 years on August 7, 2012 in Tongariro National Park, New Zealand. Mt Tongariro erupted intermittently from 1855 to 1897. Although not an immediate threat to the community, the latest eruption may be the beginning of weeks, months or even years of volcanic activity. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Aug. 7, 2012 — A New Zealand volcano suddenly erupted after lying dormant for more than a century, spewing an ash plume that disrupted flights and closed highways, officials said Tuesday.

The Mount Tongariro volcano, in the middle of North Island, erupted just before midnight (1200 Monday GMT) in the first significant activity at the site since 1897, the official monitoring body GNS Science said.

Witnesses in the area, which was used as a backdrop for the Mount Doom sequences in "The Lord of the Rings" movies, reported "flame-like explosions and a cloud of ash coming from a new hole in the side of the mountain".

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"There were rocks being thrown out. It was like thunder and lightning and fireworks. It was spectacular," local resident David Bennett told Fairfax Media.

Police reported no injuries or damage from the eruption.

Civil Defense said it did not result in any lava flows but sent a cloud of ash 20,000 feet (6,100 meters) into the atmosphere, forcing the cancellation of dozens of domestic flights.

While Civil Defense officials did not order any evacuations, they advised residents beneath the cloud to stay indoors with windows and doors sealed.

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