At least five people have died and 31 others have been hospitalized following a volcanic eruption on White Island (Bay of Plenty) at approximately 14:10 (local time) on Monday, December 9. Officials announced that eight people remain missing as of Tuesday morning, December 10. Police said that the site was still too dangerous for rescuers to search for the missing; however, reconnaissance flights over the area have revealed no signs of life.
The New Zealand GeoNet service downgraded its Volcanic Alert Level to a level 3 (third-highest on a five-tier scale) at 16:25 on Monday, while maintaining an orange aviation color code (second-highest on a four-tier scale) warning of ash emission. New Zealand Police have asked the public to avoid the Whakatane Heads and Muriwai Drive areas, and also announced that they have closed Muriwai Drive from Harvey Street. The Civil Defence service has warned individuals to avoid the affected areas due to ashfall that can be hazardous.
Further eruptions are possible in the coming hours and days, as well as transportation disruptions including flight delays and cancelations.
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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