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Volcano erupts in New Zealand's 'Lord of the Rings' park

Stefan Keller / Reuters

A massive plume of ash billows up into the sky as Mount Tongariro erupts in Tongariro National Park, New Zealand on November 21, 2012. The volcano previously erupted in August this year, the first time in more than a century.

The Associated Press reports — A New Zealand volcano erupted with a brief blast of dark ash Wednesday, canceling flights but causing no significant damage. Schoolchildren and dozens of other hikers who were walking on trails along the mountain's base were safe.

The eruption of Mount Tongariro, its second in less than four months, sent a dark ash plume about 1.9 miles into the sky. Authorities issued a no-fly alert above the mountain located in the sparsely populated area of central North Island.

Tongariro National Park, which has three active volcanoes, was the backdrop for many scenes in "The Lord of the Rings" movies. Read the full story.

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Park visitors were evacuated and flights were cancelled near New Zealand's Mount Tongariro after the volcano erupted without warning. NBCNews.com's Dara Brown reports.