No signs of life on New Zealand island after volcano erupts

No signs of life on New Zealand island after volcano erupts

Monday, December 09, 2019

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand police have said no more survivors were expected to be rescued from an island volcano that erupted suddenly on Monday, suggesting as many as two dozen people could have died.

Police said some 50 people were visiting White Island when the volcano exploded in the early afternoon — hurling ash and rock high 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 severe burns.

It was earlier estimated that the number still on the island was in the double digits.

Police said despite several aerial reconnaissance flights to try and find those trapped, "no signs of life have been seen at any point".

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island. Police are working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died."

As night fell, deputy commissioner John Tims said volcanic activity made rescue attempts by land too dangerous.

"I've got to consider the safety of our people and emergency services staff," he said.

The New Zealand military is expected to make a pass of the island in the hope that people may have survived against the odds.

The eruption occurred just after 2:00 pm (0100 GMT), thrusting a thick plume of white ash 3.6 kilometres (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.

A "considerable number" of those caught up in the disaster are believed to be Australian, according to officials in Canberra.

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.

The ship's operator Royal Caribbean — who had billed the trip to White Island as "an unforgettable guided tour of New Zealand's most active volcano" — said "a number of our guests were touring the island" but did not confirm that number.

The ship has a capacity of around 4,000 people and set sail from Sydney last week on a 12-day voyage.


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