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WELLINGTON, New Zealand • A volcano has erupted in New Zealand and planes have been warned of significant ash release.

Volcanic ash fell in areas near Mount Tongariro in central North Island late Monday night. GNS Science issued a red aviation code, the highest level, for planes in the region.

The Ministry of Civil Defense and Emergency Management advised residents of five nearby communities to stay indoors and to protect their eyes, mouth and nose if they were caught in volcanic ash.

Mount Tongariro is one of three volcanos inside Tongariro National Park. Monday's eruption was the mountain's first in decades.

New Zealand is on the Pacific Ring of Fire and has frequent seismic activity. An earthquake last year in Christchurch on South Island killed 185 people and destroyed much of the city's downtown.

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