DISASTER WAITING TO HAPPEN
White Island is about 50 km (30 miles) from the east coast of North Island and huge plumes were visible from the mainland. Volcanologists said the ash plume shot 12,000 feet (3,658 m) into the air.
“White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years,” said Ray Cas, a professor emeritus at Monash University, in comments published by the Australian Science Media Centre.
“Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern landed in Whakatane late on Monday and met rescue teams.
“We know that there were a number of tourists on or around the island at the time, both New Zealanders and visitors from overseas,” she told a news conference earlier.
“I know there will be a huge amount of concern and anxiety for those who had loved ones on or around the island at the time. I can assure them that police are doing everything they can.”