New Zealand volcano: White Island's eruption in pictures

Map locating an erupting volcano in New Zealand

The most active volcano in New Zealand violently erupted on Monday with at least five people dead and many still trapped on the White Island with rescuers who couldn't reach them.

"No signs of life have been seen at any point", the police said in a statement after rescue helicopters and other aircraft had carried out a number of aerial reconnaissance flights over the island following the eruption on Monday afternoon.

"We wish to thank everyone involved in the rescue effort, including the first responders, medical personnel and the locals who helped evacuate people from the island", Peter Buttle said.

His video showed a wall of ash and steam around White Island and a helicopter badly damaged and covered in ash.

"A number of injured people have been transferred to hospital", he said.

Dr. Ken Gledhill from New Zealand geoscience consultancy GNS said that the smoke from the eruption went around 40,000 feet in the air.

"We were obliged to wear helmets and gas masks as a condition of climbing the volcano", Mr Neil said. Some of the visitors were passengers from the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Ovation of the Seas.

"Please keep all those affected in your prayers".

"However there is a number still remaining on the island who are now unaccounted for", Deputy Police Commissioner John Tims told reporters.

"You can expect sudden and unannounced eruptions of volcanoes such as the White Island at any time", said Shane Cronin, a volcanologist at the University of Auckland, in comments published by the Australian Center for Scientific Media. It also said that volcanic tremors had increased from weak to moderate strength.

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Passengers on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship, Ovation of the Seas, have described the eerie moments on board after members of the cruise failed to return after a volcanic eruption on a day excursion to White Island.

With a sombre tone that echoed prime minister Jacinda Ardern and others in nearby Whakatane, Tims said his primary objective was the retrieval of the bodies. He said there hadn't been any major problems with tourists visiting the island in the past, though there had been some close calls.

The unsteady surface and atmosphere around the island, 50km from the North Island shore, has prevented efforts to land since the eruption.

After the disaster, GeoNet raised its alert level to 4, later dropping it to 3.

Sherburn said they were now investigating the eruption.

White Island is New Zealand's most active cone volcano. About 70% of the volcano lies under the sea.

Some of the people on the island have critical injuries. Part of the volcano's crater has collapsed and the collapse has destroyed the mining village and the mine itself.

The remains of buildings from another mining enterprise in the 1920s are now a tourist attraction.

Two dozen people made it off the island, five of whom have since died.

Nothing is yet known about a group - now estimated to number in the double digits - who are still trapped on the island.

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