Hope fades for eight missing after New Zealand volcanic island erupts

Updated: 2019-12-10 09:55
Smoke from the volcanic eruption of Whakaari, also known as White Island, is pictured from a boat, New Zealand, Dec 9, 2019 in this picture grab obtained from a social media video. [Photo/Agencies]

WHAKATANE, New Zealand - Eight people were missing and presumed dead on Tuesday after a volcanic eruption covered a small New Zealand island popular with tourists in hot ash and steam, killing five people and seriously injuring around 30 more.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said aerial reconnaissance flights showed no signs of life on White Island, as eyewitnesses detailed the horrific burns suffered by some survivors.

Ardern said tourists from Australia, the United States, Britain, China and Malaysia were among the missing and injured, along with New Zealanders.

"To those who have lost or are missing family and friends, we share in your unfathomable grief in this moment at time and in your sorrow," Ardern said at a news conference in Whakatane, a town on the mainland's east coast, some 50 km (30 miles) from White Island.

A crater rim camera owned and operated by New Zealand's geological hazards agency GeoNet showed one group of people walking away from the rim inside the crater just a minute before the explosion. Other webcams showed the explosion that shot an ash plume some 12,000 feet (3,658 m) into the air.

"It's now clear that there were two groups on the island - those who were able to be evacuated and those who were close to the eruption," Ardern added.

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