UP to 20 people are injured with some fighting for their lives after a volcano erupts off the coast of New Zealand.
According to reports from New Zealand Herald. the eruption happened at White Island, just off New Zealand’s coastline, at about 2.15pm local time today (Monday).
A second, slightly smaller eruption went off at 3.45pm, according to local fishermen.
White Island, or Whakaari, is off the coast of North Island, despite it being one the country’s most active volcanoes, the island it’s a popular tourist destination with frequent day tours and scenic flights available.
New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern initially said there were about 100 people on or around the island at the time of the eruption and not all were accounted for.
However, as Euro Weekly News understands, police have since confirmed that number is closer to 50.
Of these 50 people, some have been transported to shore, according to reports at least one has been critically injured and others are still missing.
A live feed from the volcano showed a group of visitors inside the crater before images went dark after the eruption.
Other images show a thick plume of white ash and smoke engulf the sky around the island.
Police are warning people living near the area to “be aware of the potential for ashfall” and to stay indoors
The country’s National Emergency Management Agency said a “volcanic eruption is occurring at White Island and is hazardous in the immediate vicinity of the volcano”.
Geological hazard monitoring website GeoNet said monitoring equipment on the volcano suggested there were “no signs of escalation”. However Volcanologists had recently refused to step foot on the island because it was “too dangerous” and warned tourists not to go, but boat-loads of tourist kept landing.
A rescue operation is currently underway.