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“It’s Too Dangerous” – Police Establish ‘No-Go’ Zone On After Explosive Volcanic Eruption Kills 5

Summary:
In an incident that has already taken at least five lives, a volcano on New Zealand's White Island, also known as Whakaari, erupted three times on Monday, shooting clouds of ash and debris into  the air. The incident began early in the day local time. Before Monday, the volcano had been largely dormant since 2001, CNN reports. Here's the full statement released by the New Zealand Police: Police can confirm five people are now confirmed to have died in the White Island volcanic eruption. Our sincere condolences are with their family and friends. We are continuing to work as quickly as possible, through a number of channels of information, to confirm exact numbers of those involved, including those who remain on the island. A number of people have been injured and taken to Whakātane

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In an incident that has already taken at least five lives, a volcano on New Zealand's White Island, also known as Whakaari, erupted three times on Monday, shooting clouds of ash and debris into  the air.

The incident began early in the day local time. Before Monday, the volcano had been largely dormant since 2001, CNN reports.

Here's the full statement released by the New Zealand Police:

Police can confirm five people are now confirmed to have died in the White Island volcanic eruption.

Our sincere condolences are with their family and friends.

We are continuing to work as quickly as possible, through a number of channels of information, to confirm exact numbers of those involved, including those who remain on the island.

A number of people have been injured and taken to Whakātane Hospital and Middlemore Hospital.

Both New Zealanders and overseas tourists are believed to involved.

Police is currently taking advice from GeoNet experts, who have advised that due to the current risk environment, emergency services remain unable to access the island.

We are reassessing as information and advice is received, however Police will not be in a position to access the island tonight.

The Police 105 number can be used by members of the public to submit information regarding friends or family who might have been visiting White Island during the eruption.People from overseas can call +64 9105 105.

People can also use the online form at the Police website here.

At the request of New Zealand Police, New Zealand Red Cross has activated the Family Links website for people wanting to register themselves as safe or register an inquiry about a loved one.

If you are worried about a friend or family member following the White Island eruption, first contact them as you normally would If you cannot make contact, you can register them through this website.

More information is emerging about the geology which underpins White Island: Professor Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical & climate hazards at University College London, said that "it is a sporadically active volcanic island very similar to Stromboli volcano in the Mediterranean. It does not have major eruptions, but small blasts of ash, blocks and lava are reasonably common."

Emergency services and first responders swiftly arrived on the scene to save the trapped tourists. Red Cross is assisting the police in keeping a registry of all those rescued.

At this point, no more survivors are expected.

Because the island is only a couple of kilometers across, however, visitors are close to the vent and under threat even if there is a small explosion. The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in several warnings in the days and weeks before the eruption.

Footage of the eruption showed an unusually large cloud of smoke.

Police say it's too dangerous to access White Island right now, and according to experts, it's not yet clear when it will be safe. For now, the island remains a no-fly zone, and emergency services are unable to access it.

Helen Clark, a former Prime Minister of New Zealand, has tweeted her condolences to the families of those who didn't make it off the island.

"Terrible tragedy on White Island," she tweeted. "My thoughts are with family of deceased and all injured and traumatized by the sudden eruption. "

Here's a roundup of what we know so far:

  • Five people have been confirmed killed, a figure that is expected to rise, after a volcanic eruption on New Zealand’s Whakaari / White Island.
  • A double-digit number of people remain on the island, according to deputy commissioner John Timms of New Zealand police, although the exact number remains unknown.
  • Tims told a briefing that police and rescue crews have still not been able to access to island, after advice from volcano experts. “The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island."
  • A number of people have been taken to hospital, some with burns as a result of the eruption.
  • Photographs in the aftermath of the eruption appear to show a wrecked helicopter on the island.
  • Fewer than 50 people were on the island at the time of the eruption, and 23 have been taken off.
  • 30 to 38 of those people were passengers on the cruise ship Ovation of the Seas, as confirmed by the CEO of the New Zealand Cruise Association.
  • The eruption occurred about 2:11pm local time, 48km off the coast of the Bay of Plenty, on the north Whakaari / White Island is New Zealand’s most active cone volcano, and is a popular tourist destination and scientific research site. It last experienced a short-lived eruption in 2016.
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