On Christmas Eve 1953, shortly after 10pm a lahar (torrent of water) gushed out of the crater of Mount Ruapehu and swept down the valley, fatally weakening a railway bridge, minutes before a packed overnight express train nose-dived into a river at Tangiwai, in the centre of the North Island. Many of the 285 passengers, mostly families and young people, were asleep and 151 perished in one of the world's worst train disasters. For Maori the tragedy was inevitable. The train track should never have been built across the volcano's path . . . Tangiwai means weeping waters and was known as the place of torrential flows and death. In Weeping Waters, the memories of Tangiwai drive those who live there fifty years on to look for ways to tame Ruapehu, where another deadly lahar is building. Set between 1953 and the present day the novel is based on events surrounding the Tangiwai disaster and the conflict that still exists. While the characters and incidents are invented, many of the 1953 survival and rescue stories are based on true events. When a young Vulcanologist comes to research early warning systems on the mountain, she finds herself in the middle of a raging debate between local landowners, iwi and government agencies. With a hidden agenda of her own she finds herself torn between two men, each on opposing sides of the argument.
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