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1 dead and dozens injured as NZ’s most active volcano erupts on White Island (PHOTOS, VIDEOS) 1 dead and dozens injured as NZ’s most active volcano erupts on White Island (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)
(32 minutes later)
One person has been confirmed dead after a volcano erupted in New Zealand off the coast of the Bay of Plenty. A rescue effort has been launched amid reports that around 50 people may have been on or near the island.One person has been confirmed dead after a volcano erupted in New Zealand off the coast of the Bay of Plenty. A rescue effort has been launched amid reports that around 50 people may have been on or near the island.
What looked like a group of people down in the crater was captured on the White Island Crater Rim webcam shortly before eruptions were reported on the island. “At this stage, it is too dangerous for police and rescue to go onto the island... [It] is currently covered in ash and volcanic material,” Deputy Commissioner of Police John Tims told reporters, confirming that one person has died.
The images, which have been circulating online, were taken at around 2.10pm, while the first reports of ongoing volcanic activity came only a minute later.  Police earlier said that fewer than 50 people may have been near or on the island during the eruption, and some of them are still “unaccounted for,” while others have been evacuated. At least one person was reported as being critically injured.
The majority of those who have been affected by the eruption are said to be tourists who arrived on the island on board the cruise ship ‘Ovation of the Sea,’ the largest cruise vessel on the route.
Whakatane Mayor Judy Turner has confirmed that several people have apparently been hurt in the explosion. The volcano erupted at around 2:11pm local time, ejecting plumes of ash and grey smoke 12,000 feet into the air.
"I've got limited understanding at present other than there's been an eruption, that there have been some people who were on the island at the time, who have had some injuries,” she told RNZ.
St. John, a charitable organization that provides an ambulance service throughout New Zealand, reported that seven helicopters had been dispatched to the island to retrieve the injured. Up to 20 people may be in need of urgent medical care, a spokeswoman said.
“We’re expecting burns, there could be respiratory issues, there could be head injuries, fractures, etc. from rocks or stones, we really don’t know at this stage," the organization's director of operations Norma Lane told Newstalk ZB.
Commenting on the explosion, NZ PM Jacinda Ardern said the authorities estimate that around 100 people may have been on or in the vicinity of the island, and some of them are still missing.
"At this stage we believe around 100 people were around or on the island... not all of them are accounted for,” she said, according to the New Zealand Herald.
The PM noted that rescues have already airlifted some of the injured, who are now being transported to the shore.  
Police, however, later lowered the number of people who may have been stranded on or near the island from 100 to fewer than 50. Some of these have been evacuated but a number of individuals "are currently unaccounted for," they said. At least one person has been critically injured.
The majority of those who have been affected by the eruption are said to be tourists who arrived on the island on board the cruise ship 'Ovation of the Sea,' the largest cruise vessel on the route.
A no-fly zone has been declared around the island.A no-fly zone has been declared around the island.
Despite being the country’s most active volcano, prone to sudden eruptions, White Island has remained a popular tourist attraction, attracting crowds of eager visitors every day on boat and walking tours.Despite being the country’s most active volcano, prone to sudden eruptions, White Island has remained a popular tourist attraction, attracting crowds of eager visitors every day on boat and walking tours.
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