A volcano has erupted in White Island, also called Whakaari, New Zealand, leaving five people dead and several unaccounted for, police have said.
The eruption of the country’s most active volcano began at about 14:11 local time (01:11 GMT).
Twenty-three people have been rescued, but it is unclear how many people remain there. Police say rescuers are not able to access the island because of the risk of further eruptions.
Police have said fewer than 50 people were on the island when the volcano erupted. Deputy Police Commissioner John Tims told reporters that “both New Zealand and overseas tourists” were believed to be involved.
Some of those injured are in a critical condition, Radio New Zealand reported.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said: “I know there will be a huge amount of concern and anxiety for those who have loved ones at the island at that time – and I can assure them police are doing everything they can.”
She said falling ash was hampering attempts by rescuers to get to the site.
The New Zealand Defence Force is now helping the rescue operation. A military plane has carried out surveillance and two helicopters and personnel are ready to assist.
Police initially said there were 100 people on or near the island, but later revised down the number to 50.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australians had “been caught up in this terrible event”, adding that authorities were “working to determine their wellbeing”.
More to come.
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