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Experts caught out by Tongariro eruption

Thursday 22 Nov 2012 6:03 p.m.

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By Tom McRae

A bird’s eye view gives you a new appreciation for how volatile Mt Tongariro is at the moment - it's still pumping steam at a rate of knots and that's not going to change any time soon.

The Te Maari crater will continue to spew steam for months, if not years to come, and there's a high chance of another eruption.

But predicting ongoing activity is not an exact science, as Department of Conservation (DoC) volcanic risk manager Harry Keys found out when he said Tongariro “is not dangerous – the risk from volvanic acitivty is less than the risk from bad weather” just minutes before the mountain erupted.

And he wasn't the only one caught out.

“This is kind of unbelievable,” says American tourist Jesse Frank. “On the bus ride over the tour guide was saying that the chances of an eruption were 0.001 and he was giving all the safety advice, I was like ‘no way’.”

DoC is relieved no one was injured in the blast, but says what the mountain will do in the future remains unknown.

“One thing we do learn is these are living volcanoes and we can't predict everything that happens,” says DoC spokesman Bhrent Guy.

But if history is anything to go by, the smart money is on Tongariro blowing its lid again in the next week.

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