New Zealand volcano spews ash plume in 'sudden' eruption, kills five
At least five people were killed, up to 20 injured and several were reported missing after a volcano suddenly erupted off the coast of New Zealand’s North Island on Monday, spewing a plume of ash thousands of feet into the air.
More casualties were feared on White Island, where the volcano erupted at about 2:11 p.m. local time (0111 GMT), police said.
According to Press TV, twenty-three people, some of them believed to be tourists from the Ovation of the Seas cruise ship, were rescued, police said, adding that others were still on the island.
“We are unsure of the numbers and unsure of their well-being,” Deputy Police Commissioner John Tims told a news conference, adding that rescuers could not access the island because of risks, but without elaborating.
About 50 people, New Zealanders as well as foreigners, were feared to have been nearby and several were seen near the rim of the crater minutes before the eruption.
St. John Ambulance said up to 20 people were believed to have been injured in the eruption, adding that a mobile triage unit was on its way. The organization said it had sent seven helicopters with medics onboard.
Michael Schade, an engineering manager from San Francisco, was one of the tourists who made it off the island just before the eruption.
In a video Schade posted on Twitter as he sped away from the island by boat, a huge plume of white ash soars into the sky as a group of frightened tourists huddles close to the shore.
“This is so hard to believe,” Schade said. “Our whole tour group were literally standing at the edge of the main crater not 30 minutes before.”
A crater rim camera owned and operated by New Zealand science agency GeoNet shows groups of people walking toward and away from the rim inside the crater, from which white vapor constantly billows, in the hour leading up to the eruption.