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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) - A cloud of steam and water blasted out of a New Zealand paddock, hurling rocks, scaring cows and leaving a 50-meter (165-foot) crater in one of the area's biggest geothermal eruptions in a half-century, witnesses said Wednesday.
The blowout in a field in the Reporoa farm district of New Zealand's North Island was "a real beauty'' that threw stones, mud and ash into the air, local geologist Ashley Cody said.
Farmer Phil Morgan said he turned around to see his cows stampeding up a hill and "a massive cloud heading up into the heavens.''
"It hurled some big rocks a fair distance so it must have had a bit of grunt,'' he said.
Morgan said the eruption's force came as a surprise even though Rotorua is an area known for geothermal activity.
Cody, who was called to the farm after the eruption, said he was stunned by its power.
The geyser hurled rocks up to 60 centimeters (2 feet) in diameter, and covered land within 30 meters (100 feet) of the crater with ash and mud more than 4 meters (13 feet) thick.
"It is pretty rare to see an eruption on this scale,'' he said, adding that geologists would monitor the site's geothermal activity, which could take hours or days to dissipate.
It was one of the biggest eruptions in the area since an almost identical one in 1948.
Small steam, rock and mud eruptions can occur without much warning in central North Island, where a belt of geothermal activity produces hot springs and mud pools.
One major power station taps subterranean volcanic steam in the area to supply electricity.
Reporoa is about 40 kilometers (20 miles) southeast of the town of Rotorua, and some 420 kilometers (260 miles) north of the capital, Wellington. - AP
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