New Zealand volcano eruption: No signs of life, island too unstable to search

By | December 9, 2019

A volcanic island in New Zealand erupted Monday in a tower of ash and steam while dozens of tourists were exploring the moon-like surface, killing five people and leaving more missing.

The island is too unstable to search, police said, but a helicopter surveyed the area. “Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island,” police said in a statement.

Police Deputy Commissioner John Tims had previously said the number of missing was in the double digits, but couldn’t confirm an exact number. He said there were fewer than 50 people on the island when it erupted and 23 had been taken off, including the five dead.

Tims said said there had been no contact with any of the missing.

Tour guides evacuate tourists on a boat shortly after the volcano eruption. (@SCH/Reuters)

He said both New Zealanders and overseas tourists were among those who were dead, missing or injured. Most of the 18 survivors were injured and some had suffered severe burns, he said.

Some of those involved were tourists from the Royal Caribbean International cruise ship Ovation of the Seas.

“A number of our guests were touring the island today,” the company said. “We will offer all possible assistance to our guests and local authorities. Please keep all those affected in your prayers.”

The cruise ship, which had left from Sydney last week, was scheduled to sail to the capital Wellington on Monday night, but the company said it would instead remain in the Tauranga port overnight until it learned more on the situation.