GISBORNE people are warned to prepare for ash-fall, while all flights in and out of the district are cancelled after the Mt Tongariro eruption last night.
Gisborne Civil Defence controller Jon Davies said this morning ash was not affecting the district yet but he advised people to check Civil Defence guidelines in case it did arrive.
“Ash is unlikely to affect the Gisborne district today but if the wind is in our direction, ash could reach us within two hours of any eruption,” he said.
Gisborne Airport manager Murray Bell said flights were cancelled until further notice, with airlines reassessing the situation today.
The volcano erupted at 11.50pm last night, only hours after White Island, near Whakatane, also recorded a small eruption from its crater lake.
GNS Science volcanologists are monitoring the situation.
Civil Defence issued an ash warning to nearby areas including Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne at 1.45am.
GNS Science reported ash from the eruption was drifting east.
A Mahia Beach resident said there was a fine layer of ash on her roof and veranda and a faint sulphur smell earlier this morning.
She had just hosed down her property and had not noticed any further ash-fall yet.
A resident at Kawatiri Road, near Gray’s Bush, reported hearing a series of “booms” just before midnight.
He was outside on his way to his shed to turn on a hot water cylinder in preparation to home-kill two pigs today when the volcano erupted hundreds of kilometres away.
“The pheasants started crowing away and I thought an earthquake was coming next. They always do that when there is going to be an earthquake. Then the dogs started howling and I thought it might be a big one.
“I heard three explosions . . . it was boom, boom, boom, then it sounded like a stock truck rolling flat-out down a hill. It was unbelievable,” he said.
When he got into bed, his wife said she had woken to the sound of rattling windows.
“I told her it sounded like the South Island had just dropped off.”
A neighbour also reported hearing the bird calls and her windows rattling.
Gisborne District Council emergency manager Richard Steele understood ash had stopped erupting from Tongariro this morning and no ash had fallen in Napier — contrary to some media reports.
The Desert Road is closed today but there are no restrictions on road travel in or out of Gisborne.
Federated Farmers adverse events spokeswoman Katie Milne said initial reports following the eruption indicated minimal impact on farm pasture and stock drinking water.
Four farms had been contacted in different parts of Hawke’s Bay, including one near the Taupo-Napier highway, and they were yet to report any ash-fall. GNS predicted ash-fall was likely on National Park and forested areas, she said.
Auckland-based surgeon William Peters, formerly of Gisborne, was at Chateau Tongariro yesterday with his family.
As they left at about midday yesterday, his 13-year-old daughter joked about it being funny if Tongariro blew up just after they left.
“We joked about how the warm, still conditions made perfect earthquake weather,” said Dr Peters, who heard about the eruption this morning.
■ Gisborne Civil Defence advises the following precautions if ash does arrive in the district:
• Stay inside and close all windows and doors to limit entry of ash.
• Turn off air conditioners and disconnect spouting from rainwater tanks.
• If outdoors, wear a dust mask, goggles, cloth or handkerchief to cover nose and eyes.
• Avoid wearing contact lenses — ash can get between the lens and the eye.
• Ensure you have sufficient household supplies.
• If you suffer from asthma, bronchitis or any other chronic health condition, make sure you have your medication up to date.