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White Island Alert Level Upgraded

An increase in the level of volcanic activity at White Island has prompted volcanologists to raise its alert level from one to two.

This week the volcano on the island erupted a gas and ash plume to a height of 1700m, the Institute of Geological & Nuclear Sciences Limited (GNS) said.

The increased activity, together with heightened volcanic tremor recorded on a seismograph was sufficient to raise the alert level. The tremor was the first significant rumblings on the island for 12 months, GNS chief volcanologist Brent Alloway said today.

Ash from the island, 50km offshore, is reported to have fallen in Whakatane this week.

Dr Alloway said recent recordings of sulphur dioxide emissions from the island were the highest on record. Normally the island produces between 200 and 500 tonnes of sulphur dioxide each day. A recent recording showed emissions had increased to 2200 tonnes each day.

Present activity was not an immediate hazard to visitors to the island, Dr Alloway said. However, past activity indicated that bigger eruptions could occur without warning, some ejecting large rocks. He said visitors the island should exercise caution, and wear hard hats and a gas mask.

Peter Tait, who operates White Island Tours from Whakatane, said they had not been to the island for the past two days because of rain and heavy seas. However, they were fully booked for Easter and with the weather forecast to improve, were expecting to visit the island tomorrow.

END


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