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At least five people killed as volcano erupts in New Zealand Updated: 2019-12-09 16:15:38 KST

One of New Zealand's most active volcanoes erupted on Monday, killing at least five people and leaving several others injured or missing.

"So unfortunately, I can confirm there are five people now deceased from the eruption on White Island. A number of other people have been taken to Whakatane Hospital and Middlemore Hospital."

The White Island volcano erupted at around 2 PM local time, around 50 kilometers away from the eastern coast of North Island in New Zealand.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, New Zealand's Prime Minister said foreign visitors were on or near the island when the incident occurred, and said that emergency authorities are doing everything they can.

"Police Search and Rescue are supporting the National Emergency Management Agency following an eruption at White Island off the coast of Whakatane. Police were alerted at 2:17 PM. A number of people are reportedly injured and are being transported to shore."

Many of the missing are expected to be tourists, for the island is a popular travel destination.
Authorities initially believed 100 people were near the eruption site, but later changed the number to about 50.

The White Island was also covered in ash and volcanic material, with a massive ash plume shooting thousands of meters up into the sky.
During a news conference, officials assured that the volcanic debris from White Island would have little effect on the country's mainland.

"GNS Science have advised that ash fall appears to be confined to the island and they do not expect more than a minor amount of ash to reach East Cape in the coming hours."

But the officials added, there remains possibility of a second eruption within the next 24 hours.

"It looks like, mostly, they'll have an eruption like this and then there will be a period of quiescence and that's what kind as is happening at the moment, it has quietened down. But we can't be certain there won't be another eruption in the next 24 hours."

Officials advised citizens to continue following instructions and safety advice from their local authorities as the situation continues to unfold.
Kim Jae-hee, Arirang News.
Reporter : jhee@arirang.com
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