An eruption on New Zealand’s White Island today (Dec. 9), a popular tourist attraction with both local residents and international travellers, has left at least five people dead and several more unaccounted for.
The BBC reported that New Zealand authorities have rescued 23 people from the island, but that it’s unknown how many were still left on the island following the eruption, which occurred at 2:11 p.m. local time. Police believe there were no more than 50 people on the island at the time of the incident, including cruise passengers from Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas.
Several tourists were seen walking inside the crater moments before the explosion, the report said, adding that further rescue efforts have been delayed due to the risk of further eruptions.
The island, also known as Whakaari, is a privately-owned tourist attraction and is New Zealand’s most active volcano. Recent monitoring of the island by New Zealand’s GeoNet alert system indicated that volcanic activity on the island was on the rise, raising the alert level from one to two (the current level is at a three) as of Nov. 18; an update on the island’s activity posted Dec. 3 stated that “the current level of activity does not pose a direct hazard to visitors.”
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