A volcanic eruption on a small island in New Zealand Monday resulted in at least five confirmed deaths and the fears that many more people could have died, including tourists.
According to The Washington Post, New Zealand Police Deputy Commissioner John Tims said that 23 people were rescued from White Island following the first of three eruptions, but conditions around the volcano prohibited any further attempts to save those trapped.
Tims spoke during a press conference and said the death toll is likely to rise, as police aerial reconnaissance flights have shown no signs of life on the island. The ash from the eruptions forced planes to avoid the area and ships to be redirected.
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
Tourist Michael Schade stood at the crater of New Zealand’s White Island volcano minutes before it erupted and shared his terrifying experience in a series of messages and videos posted on social media https://t.co/mQkhU1tTUf pic.twitter.com/njw83zAZww
Police in New Zealand believe there were locals and tourists on the island at the time of the eruptions, including around 30 passengers from the Ovation of the Seas cruise ship, according to New Zealand Cruise Association CEO Kevin O’Sullivan.
It remains unclear if any of the Royal Caribbean passengers were among those killed.
“Police believe that anyone who could have been taken from the island alive was rescued at the time of the evacuation,” New Zealand Police officials said in a statement. “Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island.”
While White Island, also known as Whakaari, is uninhabited due to the volcano’s regular eruptions, the island has remained popular with tourists who visit the desolate area via boat and helicopter.
“Our hope is that everyone will be recovered quickly and unharmed, but at this time we have no further information,” O’Sullivan told The Washington Post.
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