The small island, which is popular with tourists, was covered in hot ash and steam, killing five people and injuring around 30 more. Prime Minister Jacinda Adern said aerial reconnaissance flights have shown no signs of life on the island. Eyewitnesses have detailed the horrific burns suffered by some of the survivors.
Ms Ardern said tourists from Australia, the US, the UK, China and Malaysia were among the missing and the injured, along with New Zealanders.
Ms Ardern said: “To those who have lost or are missing family and friends, we share in your unfathomable grief in this moment at time and in your sorrow.”
The New Zealand Prime Minister made the emotional speech at a news conference in Whakatane, a town on the mainland’s east coast.
A camera operated by New Zealand’s geological hazards agency GeoNet was placed was on the crater rim at the time.
The camera showed a group of individuals align away rom the rim inside the crater just minutes before the deadly explosion.
Other webcams showed the explosion shooting an ash cloud 12,000 feet (3,658 metres) into the air.
Ms Ardern added: “It’s now clear that there were two groups on the island – those who were able to be evacuated and those who were close to the eruption.”
Rescuers have been unable to access the island, which is covered in grey ash.
GNS Science, New Zealand’s geoscience agency, warned of a 50/50 chance of another eruption in the next 24 hours.
The volcano vent has continued to emit “steam and mud jetting”.
Geoff Hopkins, 50, who was given a tour of the island as a birthday gift said many of the survivors had run into the sea to escape the eruption.
He told the NZ Herald: “They were just so massively burnt.
“People were in shorts and T-shirts so there was a lot of exposed skin that was massively burnt.”
Whakatane is around 50km (30 miles) from White Island.
Published at Tue, 10 Dec 2019 02:36:00 +0000