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At Least One Dead, More Missing in Eruption of New Zealand Volcano

WELLINGTON, New Zealand—At least one person has died after a volcano on a small New Zealand island erupted with a large plume of ash and steam Monday. A number of people were missing and injured after the blast at the island frequented by tourists, and the death toll is expected to rise.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said about 50 tourists were on or near White Island when it erupted in the afternoon.

“Some of those, at this stage, are unaccounted for,” she said. ”A number of people are reportedly injured and are being transported to shore.”

She said the incident appeared to be “very significant.”

“All our thoughts are with those affected,” she said.

Ardern said there were no confirmed fatalities.

St John medical responders said in a statement they believed there were 20 people on the island who were injured and in need of medical treatment. It said it had dispatched seven helicopters to the island with paramedics aboard.

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In this image made from video, injured from White Island volcanic eruption are ferried into waiting ambulances in Whakatane, New Zealand, Monday, Dec. 9, 2019. A volcano erupted Monday on a small New Zealand island frequented by tourists, and a number of people were missing and injured after the eruption. (Katee Shanls/NZME via AP)

“My god,” wrote Michael Schade on Twitter as he posted video of the eruption. “My family and I had gotten off it 20 minutes before, were waiting at our boat about to leave when we saw it. Boat ride home tending to people our boat rescued was indescribable.”

His video showed a wall of ash and steam around the island and helicopters badly damaged and covered in ash. He said one woman was badly injured but seemed “strong” by the end.

Brad Scott, a volcanologist with GNS Science, said the eruption was significant and sent a plume of steam and ash about 3,660 meters (12,000 feet) into the air. He said it had also affected the whole of the White Island crater floor.

The GeoNet agency at first raised its alert level to four, on a scale where five represents a major eruption. It later dropped the alert level back down to three. Scott said that was because the eruption wasnt sustained beyond the initial blast.

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Smoke bellows from Whakaari, also known as White Island, volcano as it erupts in New Zealand, Dec. 9, 2019, in this image obtained via social media. (GNS Science via REUTERS)

White Island sits about 50 kilometers (30 miles) offshore from mainland New Zealand. There will be questions asked as to why tourists were still able to visit the island after scientists recently noted an uptick in volcanic activity.

GeoNet raised the alert level on White Island from one to two on Nov. 18, noting an increase in the amount of sulfur dioxide gas, which originates from magma deep in the volcano. It also said aRead More – Source

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