New Zealand police have suggested death of 24 people from the volcanic White Island when it exploded in the early afternoon hurling ash and rock high into the air.
The police don’t expect any more survivors to be rescued.
Some 50 people were visiting White Island when the island volcano erupted suddenly, sending thick plume of white ash 3.6 kilometres into the sky.
Some 23 people made it off the island, five of whom have since died, the rest were being treated for injuries, including severe burns.
“Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island. Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died.”
As night fell, deputy commissioner John Tims said volcanic activity made a rescue attempts by land too dangerous.
“I’ve got to consider the safety of our people and emergency services staff,” he said.
The New Zealand military is expected to make a pass of the island at first light on Tuesday in the hope that people may have survived against the odds.
The country’s National Emergency Management Agency described the eruption as “moderate”, although the plume of ash was clearly visible from the mainland and from satellites flying overhead.
White Island, also called Whakaari is 50 kilometres offshore in the Bay of Plenty and is popular with adventurous tourists willing to don hard hats and gas masks.
It is New Zealand’s most active volcano cone and about 70 percent of it is underwater.
Some 10,000 people visit the volcano every year. It has erupted frequently over the last half-century, most recently in 2016.
In August of that year the New Zealand Defence Force airlifted a 2.4-tonne shipping container onto the island to serve as an emergency shelter in case of an eruption.