One person is confirmed to have been killed following an eruption on White Island.
Police are continuing to work with the National Emergency Management Agency to coordinate a search and rescue operation following a volcanic eruption at White Island this afternoon.
The eruption occurred about 2.11pm.
This is so hard to believe. Our whole tour group were literally standing at the edge of the main crater not 30 minutes before. My thoughts with the families of those currently unaccounted for, the people recovering now, and especially the rescue workers… pic.twitter.com/mn704hobRk— Michael Schade (@sch) December 9, 2019
'While it was initially believed there were about 100 people on or near the island at the time of the eruption, we now believe there were fewer than 50," says a police spokesperson.
"There remain a number of people on the island who are unaccounted for.
"Both New Zealanders and overseas tourists are believed to be involved.
"At this stage, we can confirm there has been one fatality, and based on the information we have it is likely there are others.
"A number of injured people have been transported to Whakatane Hospital and Middlemore Hospital."
Police are leading the search and rescue operation and we are working at pace to confirm the numbers of those involved.
"The island is currently covered in ash and we are taking expert advice with regards to the conditions to determine when we can safety access the island.
My god, White Island volcano in New Zealand erupted today for first time since 2001. 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. #whiteisland pic.twitter.com/QJwWi12Tvt— Michael Schade (@sch) December 9, 2019
"We will provide more details as soon as we are in a position to do so."
People in the area should continue to go to the Civil Defence and Emergency Management website for any safety advice: www.civildefence.govt.nz/
GNS Science duty volcanologist Geoff Kilgour says monitoring data shows that there was a short-lived eruption that generated an ash plume to ~12,000ft above the vent at 2.11pm.
"Ash has covered the main crater floor as seen in our webcam images.
"Ash fall appears to be confined to the island and we do not expect more than a minor amount of ash to reach East Cape in the coming hours.
"Our monitoring equipment is still operating, and 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."
The Volcanic Alert Level has decreased to Level 3.
The Aviation Colour Code remains at Orange.
GNS Science and the National Geohazards Monitoring Centre continues to closely monitor Whakaari/White Island for further signs of activity. Volcanic Alert Level 3 indicates a minor local eruption is in progress.
Enquiries related to the emergency response should be directed to National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA – www.civildefence.govt.nz)
More information will be made available within the next 24 hours.
Why were people allowed on White Island?