Number of missing people in double digits, say police
Five people died and at least two dozen more stranded in a volcano eruption on or around New Zealand’s White Island, police told AFP.
Almost 50 people, including foreigners and cruise passengers, were expected to be on or near the island when the volcano erupted. Only 23 have come back, the police said.
“There is a number still remaining on the island who are currently unaccounted for,” deputy commissioner John Tims told AFP. “At this stage, it is too dangerous for police and rescue services to go to the island.”
The eruption occurred at 2:11pm (0111 GMT) and a thick fume of white ash was thrust 12,000 feet high into the sky.
There had been no contact with any survivors and injured on the island, the police confirmed. They added that the survivors will have to wait for a long time for rescue as nightfall was close.
Cameras providing a live feed from the island showed more than a dozen people walking on the crater floor moments before the eruption.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told AFP that some of those caught up in the disaster were foreigners. “We know that there were a number of tourists on or around the island at the time, both New Zealanders and visitors from overseas.”
The country’s National Emergency Management Agency described the eruption as “moderate”.
“We have seen a steady decline in activity since the eruption. There remains significant uncertainty as to future changes but currently there are no signs of escalation,” it added.
White Island, also known as Whakaari, is about 50 kilometres (30 miles) offshore in the Bay of Plenty and is popular with adventurous tourists.