At least five people have died with many others trapped off the coast of New Zealand on Monday after a volcano erupted unexpectedly at a popular tourist spot.
Police believe around 50 people – New Zealanders as well as foreign tourists – were on White Island, in the Bay of Plenty, when the volcano blasted a huge plume of ash and steam into the air on Monday.
It is unclear how many people were unaccounted for on the Island, however, police said in their statement that there were no more signs of life after rescue helicopters and other aircraft conducted a number of aerial reconnaissance flights.
“Police (are) working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died,” the statement read, adding that a ship would approach the island at first light on Tuesday to deploy drones and observational equipment to further assess the situation.
The rescue services have been unable to reach White Island as it remains too dangerous.
White Island became a private scenic reserve in 1953 and daily tours allow more than 10,000 people to visit the volcano every year. The last fatal eruption recorded on the tourist site was in 1914 when it killed 12 sulphur miners.