Tourists reported injured, missing in New Zealand island eruption

Friday, 13 Dec, 2019

Police said on Tuesday that 5 of the 23 people taken for rescue from the White Island in New Zealand are dead and they believe there are no more survivors on the island.

So far, 18 people have been rescued; all have who have burn injuries to some degree.

Dep Comm Tims said it was now too risky for emergency services to return to the island.

In a video Schade posted on Twitter as he sped away from the island by boat, a huge plume of white ash soars into the sky as a group of frightened tourists huddles close to the shore.

Schade then shared another video of a helicopter on the island, which appears to have damaged blades.

"(A) woman my mom (sic) tended to was in critical condition but seemed strong by the end.

Police Deputy Commissioner John Tims said the number of missing was in the double digits but he couldn't confirm an exact number.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at a news conference that "we believe 100 people were on or around the island", some of whom remained unaccounted for. Mr Tims said there had been no contact with any of the missing.

"The increase in activity that had been observed was relatively low-level, just more of a release of gas and sulphur, not a clear indication that such a violent eruption was to take place", he said.

New Zealand Red Cross activated the Family Links website at the request of New Zealand Police for people wanting to register themselves as "safe" or register a family member or friend as "missing".

Some of those involved were guests from the Royal Caribbean International cruise ship Ovation of the Seas. "Please keep all those affected in your prayers".

As a result of the eruption, the volcanic alert level was raised to the second-highest level, and the aviation color code was raised to orange.

Geological hazard trackers GeoNet had registered moderate volcanic unrest on the island for weeks.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island", NZ police said in a statement.

Officials said the eruption began about 2:11 p.m. local time on the island, about 50 kilometers from the east coast of North Island, throwing smoke and debris into the air.

"It was quite an explosive eruption and significantly impacted the island and the main crater floor area", Scott told a local radio station, according to Newshub.

GeoNet at first raised its alert level to four, on a scale where five represents a major eruption.

The White Island volcano is one of New Zealand's most active volcanoes.

About 70 percent is under the sea, making the massive volcanic structure the largest in New Zealand.

A rescue operation was launched to save people who were pictured inside the crater at 2.10pm, minutes before the explosion, on the White Island Crater Rim camera. Part of the volcano's crater has collapsed and the collapse has destroyed the mining village and the mine itself.

The camera, along with three others from different vantage points, captures and posts images online of the volcano, also known by its Maori name of Whakaari, every 10 minutes.