Five dead, dozens missing after New Zealand volcano eruption

Five dead, dozens missing after New Zealand volcano eruption
Thick smoke from the volcanic eruption of Whakaari, also known as White Island, is seen from a distance of a vessel in New Zealand on Monday in this image obtained via social media.

WHAKATANE, New Zealand – A volcanic island in New Zealand erupted in a tower of ash and steam while dozens of tourists were exploring the moon-like surface, killing five people and leaving many more missing.

Police say the site was still too dangerous on White Island hours later for rescuers to search for the missing.

Police Deputy Commissioner John Tims says the number of missing was in the double digits but he couldn’t confirm an exact number. He said there were fewer than 50 people on the island when it erupted and 23 had been taken off, including the five dead.

Tims says experts had told them the island remained unstable but search and rescue teams wanted to get back as quickly as they could. He said there had been no contact with any of those who were missing.

He said both New Zealanders and overseas tourists were among those who were dead, missing or injured. He said most of the 18 who survived were injured and some had suffered severe burns.

Some of those involved were tourists from the Royal Caribbean International cruise ship Ovation of the Seas.

White Island sits about 50 kilometres offshore from mainland New Zealand. Already people are questioning why tourists were still able to visit the island after scientists recently noted an uptick in volcanic activity.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern travelled to the region late Monday. She says the incident was “very significant.”

The Canadian Press / The Associated Press 


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