Photo Credit: Michael Schade
Eruption of volcano on the privately-owned White Island off the coast of New Zealand, Dec. 9 2019

At least five people were confirmed killed and 10 more were unaccounted for Monday in New Zealand after a volcano erupted on the privately-owned White Island, or “Whakaari” as it is called in Maori.

A group of tourists was exploring the island, located about 30 miles off the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island when the “very significant” eruption occurred at around 2:11 pm local time. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters, “A number of people are reportedly injured and are being transported to shore.”

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Of the 18 tourists who managed to flee the island in time, none was able to escape unscathed: each was injured in varying degrees, including with severe burns, according to news agencies.

Among the tourists were a number of foreign nationals, but authorities have not released the identities of anyone thus far.

“Police believe that anyone who could have been taken from the island alive was rescued at the time of the evacuation,” a police statement said.

Ferrying survivors away from the volcanic inferno on White Island, off the coast of New Zealand, Dec. 9 2019

“Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island. Police is (sic) working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already,” a police spokesperson added.

Reconnaissance flights over the island since the eruption have not revealed any signs of life, authorities said. Emergency services are unable to access the island; volcano experts warn the area is too dangerous and unstable at present.

H/T to photographer Michael Schade.

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