New Zealand

Volano Erupts in New Zealand

Is Sauron back?

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A New Zealand volcano used as a backdrop to "The Lord of the Rings" films erupted on Wednesday, spewing a column of ash three kilometres (1.9 miles) above the North Island, scientists said.

Vulcanologists said Mount Tongariro rumbled to life at 1:25 pm (0025 GMT), in a five-minute burst that briefly closed roads, put aviation authorities on high alert and sent nearby hikers scrambling for safety.

"It was completely unexpected, there were no warning signs beforehand," a spokeswoman for official monitoring service GNS Science told AFP.