Officials at New Zealand's Geological Science institute (GNS) issued a statement on Thursday, December 12, warning that the risk of further eruptions on White Island (Bay of Plenty) remains high. The Volcanic Alert Level was lowered to level 2 (second-lowest on a five-tier scale), however, authorities have said that this does not indicate a lowered risk of eruption but rather heightened volcanic unrest with potential for eruption hazards. They put the likelihood of another eruption in the next 24 hours between 50 to 60 percent, and warn that an eruption can happen at any time, with little to no warning. Due to the volatile situation, recovery officials have not been able to recover the bodies of the nine people who are officially classified as missing. As of Thursday, eight people have been killed and an additional 31 people have been hospitalized.
Further eruptions are possible in the coming hours and days. Consequent transportation disruptions including flight delays and cancelations are likely.
A volcano erupted on White Island at approximately 14:10 on December 9. Reconnaissance flights over the area have revealed no signs of life.
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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