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09 December 2019 04:36

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said about 100 tourists were on or near White Island when it erupted.

volcano

New Zealand volcano erupts: Tourists injured and several 'unaccounted for' New Zealand's prime minister has said a number of people are unaccounted for after a volcano on a small island frequented by tourists started to erupt. The eruption began at about 2.30pm local time on White Island, about 30 miles (50km) from the east coast of North Island, throwing smoke and debris into the air. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said about 100 tourists were on or near White Island when it erupted. Some of those, at this stage, are unaccounted for, she said. "A number of people are reportedly injured and are being transported to shore." Advertisement Ms Ardern said the incident appeared to be very significant.

New Zealand volcano erupts: Tourists injured and several 'unaccounted for'

The GeoNet agency said a moderate volcanic eruption had occurred and raised its alert level to four, on a scale where five represents a major eruption. 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. White Island is northeast of the town of Tauranga on North Island, one of New Zealand's two main islands. Police have told people to avoid areas on North Island that are close to the eruption, including the Whakatane Heads and Muriwai Drive areas. White Island, also known by the indigenous Maori name Whakaari, is New Zealand's most active cone volcano and about 70% of the volcano is under the sea. Twelve people were killed on the island in 1914 when it was being mined for sulphur. Part of a crater wall collapsed and a landslide destroyed the miners' village and the mine itself. The remains of buildings from another mining enterprise in the 1920s are now a tourist attraction, according to GeoNet. The island became a private scenic reserve in 1953, and daily tours allow more than 10,000 people to visit the volcano every year. More to follow...