A man has shared the terrifying scenes after a volcano erupted on an island off the coast of New Zealand’s North Island.
The volcano erupted on White Island, 50km east of Bay of Plenty, on Monday at 2.10pm (local time).
National Operations Commander Deputy Commissioner John Tims told reporters five people have died after they were removed from White Island.
Both New Zealanders and overseas tourists are believed to be involved, NZ police said.
Michael Schade, who is believed to be from San Francisco, wrote on Twitter he left 20 minutes before the eruption and had been standing at the crater with the rest of his tour group half an hour before the disaster.
“Boat ride home tending to people our boat rescued was indescribable,” he tweeted.
Mr Schade shared videos of the aftermath. Smoke is seen filling the sky.
In one video, people wait near the water seeking rescue.
“Those are some of the people [the] boat picked up,” Mr Schade tweeted.
“Praying for them and their recovery. Woman my mum tended to was in critical condition but seemed strong by the end.”
Another video showed a helicopter lying in a heap on the ground.
Mr Schade added it looked “completely destroyed”.
“This is so hard to believe,” he tweeted.
“Our whole tour group were literally standing at the edge of the main crater not 30 minutes before. My thoughts with the families of those currently unaccounted for, the people recovering now, and especially the rescue workers.”
Images taken by geological hazard trackers GeoNet show a group of people walking on White Island just moments before the volcano erupted.
It was initially believed 100 people were on the island.
Twenty-three have been evacuated, but a number remain unaccounted for.
It’s not clear how many people could still be on White Island.
Dep Comm Tims said it was currently too dangerous for emergency services to return to the island.
Brad Scott, a volcanologist with GNS Science, said the eruption was significant and sent a plume of steam and ash about 3660 metres into the air.
He said it had also affected the whole of the White Island crater floor.
- with The Associated Press and AAP
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