White Island Volcano Eruption: At Least 5 Dead, Others Missing In New Zealand

WHITE ISLAND, New Zeland – At least five people were killed and others are missing following a volcano eruption on White Island off of the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island at 2:11 p.m. New Zealand Daylight Time on Monday, December 9, 2019.

“Our monitoring data shows that there was a short-lived eruption that generated an ash plume to ~12,000ft above the vent,” New Zealand’s volcanic monitoring project GeoNet reported at 4:25 p.m. NZDT.

“Ash has covered the main crater floor as seen in our webcam images. Ashfall appears to be confined to the island and we do not expect more than a minor amount of ash to reach East Cape in the coming hours.”

New Zealand Defense Force aircraft have undertaken a number of aerial reconnaissance flights over the island since the eruption. No signs of life have been seen at any point.

“Police believe that anyone who could have been taken from the island alive were rescued at the time of the evacuation,” said New Zealand Police. “Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island.”

Both New Zealanders and overseas tourists are believed to involved, and a number were from the Royal Caribbean Ovation of the Seas cruise ship.

White Island Tour operators rescuing people about 13 minutes after the eruption.
White Island Tour operators rescuing people about 13 minutes after the eruption. Courtesy Michael Schade

“My god, White Island volcano in New Zealand erupted today for first time since 2001,” tourist Michael Schade tweeted. “My family and I had gotten off it 20 minutes before, were waiting at our boat about to leave when we saw it. Boat ride home tending to people our boat rescued was indescribable.”

There were early indications that a volcanic eruption was impending.

The day before the eruption, GeoNet issued a Volcanic Alert Bulletin stating that “Moderate volcanic unrest continues at Whakaari/White Island, with substantial gas, steam and mud bursts observed at the vent located at the back of the crater lake. Other monitoring parameters remain elevated and the Volcanic Alert Level stays at Level 2.”