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New Zealand PM says tourists are unaccounted for after volcano eruption

Dec. 09, 2019
2 min read
White Island Volcano off North Coast of New Zealand.
New Zealand PM says tourists are unaccounted for after volcano eruption
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At least five people are confirmed dead and up to two dozen are missing after a volcano on a New Zealand island popular with tourists erupted Dec. 9, according to reports.

White Island is about 30 miles off the east coast of North Island and calls itself New Zealand's "most active volcano." New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told Reuters that tourists were among the several people unaccounted for. "A number" of tourists involve include passengers on a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, which is docked in a town about 50 miles away, according to authorities.

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Rescuers are reportedly mounting an effort to find travelers and White Island's own website says that the island is "experiencing an emergency." "An active police search and response is underway," Ardern said during a news conference on Monday.

New Zealand Police Deputy Commissioner John Tims said in a news conference that the situation on the island was so unsafe that rescuers couldn't return to the island. The island is currently a no-fly zone, Tims said.

“On the scheme of things for volcanic eruptions, it’s not large, but if you were close to that, it is not good,” Ken Gledhill from GNS Science said.

Air New Zealand, the country's flag carrier, confirmed in a tweet that no flights had been affected.

Visiting an active volcano comes with major risks. The Royal Geographical Society conducted a study on volcano tourism, noting that most tourists are not aware of the risks involved. Deaths have occurred around the world. Though regulations are in place, these vary depending on the municipality, and ultimately the planet is wildly unpredictable.

Be sure to observe the safety regulations and pay attention to any applicable safety procedures. Even if you’re one to occasionally stray from the marked trails, this is time to err on the side of caution.

Featured image by Getty Images/Aurora Open