UPDATE @ 6.45AM | Five people have now been confirmed dead, while eight are still missing, after a volcano erupted on New Zealand’s White Island.
Australians have been confirmed among those on the island, along with tourists from the United States, United Kingdom, China and Malaysia.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has this morning warned Australia should prepare for the worst, saying there are still 11 Australians are still unaccounted for, while 13 have been confirmed amongst those in hospitals.
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“We fear of the five of the deceased persons, that three of those, up to three, are Australians, but that is not yet confirmed,” Prime Minister Morrison said.
There were two subsequent explosions just after 2.00pm yesterday, with initial reports suggesting as many as 100 people could have been in the vicinity.
It’s since been confirmed that there were 47 people on the island at the time, five are confirmed dead, eight are still missing, 31 are in hospital, and three have been discharged from hospital overnight.
A Westpac helicopter, two private helicopters and a volcanic air helicopter immediately flew to the island to try and rescue some of the survivors, and were able to get a number of people out.
This morning, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern confirmed there were two groups of people on the island; those who were able to be rescued, and those who were close to the eruption.
“I want to acknowledge the courageous decision made by first responders, and those pilots who in their immediate rescue effort, made an incredibly brave decision under extraordinarily dangerous circumstances, in an attempt to get people out.
“As a result of their efforts a number of people were rescued from the island,” Ms Ardern told reporters this morning.
Authorities have spent the night trying to gain access to the island, within the Bay of Plenty, though so signs of life have been seen.
Police Superintendent Bruce Bird says many people are working on getting to the island to recover those missing today, but it must be safe to do so.
“Today our focus will be on working with the experts to determine the safety for us to return to the island to look to recover those people that are currently missing.
“We will be relying on advice coming from the scientific and technical committee in Wellington, that are currently meeting at the moment and will have advice on whether we may potentially return to the island.
“But I will reiterate, we will only go to the island when it is safe to do so for our people,” Superintendent Bird said.
EARLIER @ 4.00PM | Officials in New Zealand have confirmed one person has been killed after a volcano erupted in the Bay of Plenty, with the death toll expected to rise.
Several others remain unaccounted for with unconfirmed reports Australians are among them.
It’s believed a number of those people who were visiting the volcano were from a cruise that had sailed from Sydney to Auckland.
Police now believe there was fewer than 50 people on the island at the time of the eruption after initial reports there were as many as 100.
But they are unable to confirm the exact number with crews unable to get access to the island.
It’s believed at least 23 people were rescued.
“However there is a number still remaining on the island who are currently unaccounted for,” Deputy Police Commissioner John Tims told reporters.
“I can confirm there is one fatality and based on the information we have there is likely to be more.”
“At this stage it is too dangerous for Police and rescue services to go to the island, however we continue to assess the conditions which would allow us to go onto the island.
“The island is covered in ash and volcanic material , we are taking expert advice in regards to the safety of any rescue attempt.”
EARLIER @ 1.40PM | An active volcano popular with tourists in New Zealand has erupted, with fears dozens of people may have been injured.
The Whakaari volcano, otherwise known as White Island, erupted just after 2.10pm local time on Monday, sending plumes of smoke into the air.
It’s located about 40km offshore of the Bay of Plenty.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says it’s believed about 100 people were around the island at the time.
“At this stage we believe around 100 people were around or on the island at this stage not all of them are accounted for,” Ardern said.
“All our thoughts are with those affected at this stage.”
According to Geonet, the alert level for the volcano has been upgraded to 4.
“Eruption hazards on and near volcano. Ash, lava flow, and lahar (mudflow) hazards may impact areas distant from the volcano,” Geonet says.
Helicopters are currently enroute to the scene.