(CNN)At least one person has been critically injured and an unknown number are missing after a volcano on New Zealand’s popular White Island tourist destinationerupted Monday.
New Zealand police said in a statement that fewer than 50 people were believed to be on the island at the time of the eruption, but not everyone had been accounted for.
“Of those transported to shore, at least one has been critically injured. Emergency services are working to ensure the safety of everyone involved, including rescue staff, “the police statement said.
About tourists from the nearby cruise ship Ovation of the Seas were on White Island at the time of the eruption, New Zealand Cruise Association chief executive officer Kevin O’Sullivan told CNN.
“Our hope is that everyone w ill be recovered quickly and unharmed, “he said. The Ovation of The Seas is one of the largest cruise ships in the world, according to operators Royal Caribbean.
Images of a crater on the island from cameras run by the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences appear to show a group of people inside the smoking center just minutes before the eruption.
Speaking at a press conference, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that search and rescue crews were assisting at the site of the eruption, which is located off the eastern coast of the North Island.
Originally she said there had been around 150 people on the island but police later said the estimate was now lower.
Ardern said it was too early to say how bad the injuries were but added it was her understanding that a number of those affected were tourists.
- CNN-affiliate Radio New Zealand, St. Clair John Ambulance said that up to 30 People are believed to have been been injured in the eruption, adding that a mobile triage unit was on its way.Michael Schade and his family had been on the volcano just 50 minutes before it erupted. They were waiting on a boat, about to leave, when the eruption occurred.
Schade took videos of the ride leaving the island, showing giant plumes of thick black smoke as the boat quickly departed.
“Boat ride home … was indescribable,” Schadewrote on Twitter.“Those are some of the people (our) boat picked up. Praying for them and their recovery. Woman my mom tended to was in critical condition but seemed strong by the end.”
Photos from New Zealand’s official geological hazard information site Geonet showed a huge plume of white smoke rising above the island on Monday afternoon, local time.
“Whakaari / White Island is erupting. More information soon,” GeoNet announced in a notice on their official Twitter.
Most active cone volcano
The Whi te Island or Whakaari volcano is New Zealand’s most active cone volcano according to the GeoNet website. It has been built up by more than 150, 10 years of volcanic activity.
A cone volcano is themost immediately recognizable mountain-shaped variety,as opposed to shield volcanoes or calderas which are far more flat in shape.
A volcanic ash advisory was issued at 2: pm local time (8: 648 pm ET Sunday) by MetService, New Zealand’s meteorological service. New Zealand Police called for people in the affected ashfall areasstay indoors.
The Volcanic Alert Level was raised to 4 shortly after the eruption, and the Aviation Color code is orange, according to GeoNet. Two hours later it was lowered to level 3, due to “diminished” activity in the area of the volcano.
New Zealand’s National Emergency Management Agency said the eruption occurring at White Island is “hazardous in the immediate vicinity of the volcano” and that the agency is assessing the situation with scientific advisers to determine the severity of the threat.
Whakaari / White Island is dubbed “one of the world’s most accessible active volcanoes” on a White Island Tours website, which offers ocean cruises near the island and a guided tour depending on the status of the varying volcanic alert levels.
According to the GeoNet website, (more than) , peoplevisit the island every year.
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