- Search about to get underway
Although the latest press statement from New Zealand’s rescue services suggests that five people have so far been confirmed as dead, following the eruption of White Island’s volcano, they say that there are no signs of life and there’s been no indication so far that anyone survived the event, however they ad that they still haven’t had a chance to properly evaluate and assess the situation.
At the time of writing it’s still early morning in New Zealand, so the plan is to properly investigate once the sun rises in a few hours.
The volcano, which sits northeast of New Zealand’s North Island in the Bay of Plenty, last erupted in 2016, but as a major tourist attraction it regularly attracts visitors by helicopter or boat to see it in all its glory. Around 10,000 people visit the volcano every year.
Unfortunately, about 50 people were on the island when the volcano shot an ash plume some 12,000 feet into the air.
Some 23 people made it off the island, five of whom have since died. The rest were being treated for injuries, including many with severe burns.
Police say that they have already made several early morning aerial surveillance flights over the affected area but that “Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island. We are working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has already confirmed that 24 of those on the island at the time of the eruption are Australians.
The eruption occurred just after 2 p.m. (0100 GMT), thrusting a thick plume of white ash 3.6 kilometers (12,000 feet) into the sky.
Seconds before, live camera feeds showed a group of more than a half dozen people walking on the crater floor. Then the images went black.
As many as 30 of those involved are also believed to be cruise passengers on a day trip from the vessel Ovation of the Seas, Kevin O’Sullivan, chief executive officer of industry body the New Zealand Cruise Association told AFP. With 4,000 people on board the liner set sail from Sydney last week on a 12 day voyage.
The New Zealand military is expected to make a pass of the island at first light in the hope that people may have survived against the odds.