In a tragic incident, New Zealand police stated that 5 tourists lost their lives and more deaths were likely after an island volcano popular with tourists erupted on Monday, leaving dozens of people stranded.
“I can confirm there is one fatality” said deputy commissioner John Tims.
“There is a number still remaining on the island who are currently unaccounted for,” he added, “at this stage, it is too dangerous for police and rescue services to go to the island.”
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern revealed that foreigners were some of those caught in the disaster. “We know that there were a number of tourists on or around the island at the time, both New Zealanders and visitors from overseas.”
New Zealand police added that carrying out volcanic rescues were “too risky.”
Police said the volcano eruption happened about 2:11pm local time (0111 GMT) and nearby there were about 50 people — less than the initially expected 100 officials.
Mayor Judy Assures Safe Return of the Tourists
“Some of those people have been transported to shore, however a number believed to be on the island are currently unaccounted for,” the force said in a statement.
“Of those transported to shore, at least one has been critically injured.”
St John Ambulance stated that up to 20 people had been injured, but medical teams were still on the way.
“Emergency services are currently frantically trying to get these people back from the island to hospital for treatment,” Whakatane mayor Judy Turner told AFP.
For a group of visitors walking on the crater floor moments before the eruption occurred, there were particular fears.
Aircraft’s and Helicopters Try to Rescue Survivors
More than half a dozen people were shown inside the rim by cameras providing live feed from the volcano before images went dark when the eruption occurred minutes later.
The National Emergency Management Agency of the country described the eruption as “strong,” though it could be seen for miles around a thick plume of white ash.
Several aircraft and helicopters reach area and survivors in tour boats got rescue. White Island locates in the picturesque Bay of Plenty. It is about 50 kilometers offshore. Also, is popular with adventurous visitors who are willing to don hard hats and gas masks.
“It had landed on the island. What happened after that we don’t know, but we know that all five made it back to Whakatane on one of the tourist boats,” a company spokesman told AFP.