The New Zealand GeoNet service issued a level 4 (second-highest on a five-tier scale) volcanic alert at 14:30 (local time) on Monday, December 9, following an eruption at approximately 14:10 on White Island (Bay Of Plenty), about 48 km (30 mi) off the east coast of the North Island. It also issued an orange aviation color code (second-highest on a four-tier scale) warning of ash emission. The Civil Defence service has warned individuals to avoid the area due to ashfall that can be hazardous. New Zealand Police have also asked the public to avoid the Whakatane Heads and Muriwai Drive areas, while also announcing that they have closed Muriwai Drive from Harvey Street.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed that approximately 100 people were on or near the island at the time of the eruption, and that many of them are unaccounted for as of 16:26. She did not confirm any fatalities. Local media outlets report that around 20 people have been injured as a result of the eruption. Emergency personnel are deploying to the island, including helicopter services bringing individuals back to Whakatāne Airport (WHK).
Further eruptions are possible in the coming hours and days, potentially resulting in flight delays and cancelations and other associated disruptions.
Individuals present in the affected area are advised to avoid the vicinity of the volcano, monitor the situation, adhere to any instructions issued by the local authorities (e.g. evacuation orders), and wear respiratory masks and covering clothing to protect skin from ashfall. Individuals traveling to/out of White Island are advised to anticipate flight disruptions.
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