At least one killed as New Zealand volcano erupts

More deaths are expected after the incident offshore from the country’s mainland.

Press Association
Last updated: 9 December 2019 - 8.10am

One person has died and more fatalities are likely after a volcano erupted on a small New Zealand island, police said.

Police Deputy Commissioner John Tims said 23 people had been taken from White Island in the country’s Bay of Plenty, some of whom are injured.

He was unclear about the number who remained and were unaccounted for but said the total number of people on the island when it erupted was fewer than 50.

The island, a favourite of tourists, erupted with a large plume of ash and steam Monday.

New Zealanders and foreign tourists are believed to be involved, police added.

Mr Tims said it was too dangerous for police and rescue services to travel to the island but they wanted to urgently get back as quickly as they could.

He said there had been no contact with those who remained missing on the island.

Tourists can be seen on a trail near the volcano's crater on White Island, New Zealand
In this image released by GeoNet, tourists can be seen on a trail near the volcano’s crater (GNS Science via AP)

“There remain a number of people on the island who are unaccounted for,” a statement from police said.

Royal Caribbean International said guests from its cruise ship Ovation of the Seas had been visiting White Island.

“A number of our guests were touring the island today,” the company said.

“We will offer all possible assistance to our guests and local authorities. Please keep all those affected in your prayers.”

Emergency services help the injured
Emergency services help the injured (Katee Shanls/NZME via AP)

The company statement said the ship would remain there overnight until it learned more on the situation.

“My god,” wrote Michael Schade on Twitter as he posted video of the eruption.

“My family and I had gotten off it 20 minutes before, were waiting at our boat about to leave when we saw it. Boat ride home tending to people our boat rescued was indescribable.”

His video showed a wall of ash and steam around the island and helicopters badly damaged and covered in ash.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said people who were injured in the eruption were being transported to shore.

She said the incident appeared to be “very significant”.

“All our thoughts are with those affected,” she said.

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