At least one person has died following a volcanic eruption at approximately 14:10 (local time) on Monday, December 9, on White Island (Bay Of Plenty), about 48 km (30 mi) off the east coast of the North Island. At least seven more people are critically injured and the Police Deputy Commissioner John Tims has said that more casualties are likely. Government officials have said that approximately 50 individuals were on or near the island at the time of the eruption, and that many of them remain unaccounted for as of 20:15. Aviation authorities have reportedly implemented a 26 nautical mile no fly zone around the island to help rescue crews who are transporting individuals back to Whakatāne Airport (WHK). Emergency personnel are deployed to the scene. Details are still emerging.
The New Zealand GeoNet service issued a level 4 (second-highest on a five-tier scale) volcanic alert at 14:30 on Monday, and an orange aviation color code (second-highest on a four-tier scale) warning of ash emission. 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. 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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