• A magnitude 5.3 earthquake has struck near Gisborne at 1pm
• Six confirmed dead, eight missing, 30 in hospital after White Island volcano erupts twice
• There were 47 people in total on the island, 38 of them were from the cruise ship Ovation of the Seas
• Thirty-four injured people and five bodies were taken off the island by heroic rescuers in the face of extreme danger, says PM
• Police say there are no further signs of life on the island, following flyovers late on Monday
• Many of the victims are tourists from Australia, the UK, China, Malaysia and the US
At least one of the dead is a local man - a popular tourist guide
The alert level on the island volcano was raised several weeks ago
Scientists say the volcano erupted instantaneously

A magnitude 5.3 earthquake has struck near Gisborne, 23 hours after White Island erupted yesterday.

Police say there are "no signs of life" on White Island and they believe anyone who could have been taken from the island alive was rescued at the time of Monday's evacuation.

Six people have been confirmed dead and eight are still missing, presumed killed. Thirty-one people are in seven hospitals with a range of injuries following the instant eruption of the island volcano at 2.11pm.

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Some of the injured have burns to 90 per cent of their bodies and a source said they may not survive the horrific injuries.

"The Police Eagle helicopter, rescue helicopter and NZDF aircraft have undertaken a number of aerial reconnaissance flights over the island since the eruption," police said in a statement early Tuesday.

"No signs of life have been seen at any point.

"Police believe that anyone who could have been taken from the island alive was rescued at the time of the evacuation.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island."

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said last night: "We must prepare for some difficult news in the days ahead."

READ MORE:
White Island erupts: Why were tourists allowed on unsettled island?
Scientist: White Island eruption was 'basically instantaneous'

'I can't think of anything worse' - Survivor on being abandoned on an erupting volcano
White Island eruption caps off a decade of drama at angry volcano

Police are working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already, the statement said.

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"As part of the recovery a NZDF ship will approach the perimeter of the island at first light to deploy drones and observational equipment to further assess the environment.

"Police continue to receive information and advice from GeoNet experts to support the recovery operation.

"The Police Disaster Identification (DVI) team are assembling in Whakatāne to await deployment.

"Both New Zealanders and overseas tourists are believed to involved, and a number were from the Ovation of the Seas cruise ship (berthed in Tauranga).

"The police 105 number can be used by members of the public to submit information regarding friends or family who might have been visiting White Island during the eruption.

"People from overseas can call +64 9105 105.

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"They can also use the online form at the police website.

"At the request of New Zealand Police, New Zealand Red Cross has activated the Family Links website for people wanting to register themselves as safe or register an inquiry about a loved one.

"If you are worried about a friend or family member following the White Island eruption, first contact them as you normally would.

"If you cannot make contact, you can register them through this website: https://familylinks.icrc.org/new-zealand/en/Pages/Home.aspx.

"The friends and family of those involved remain at front of mind for Police.

"Support is being put in place and Police are working to provide them with information as it becomes available."

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Former Whakatāne mayor Tony Bonne says one of the people killed was an experienced guide for White Island Tours - "a young energetic man who's lost his life".

White Island Tours' chairman Paul Quinn said the company was deeply saddened following the significant eruption.

"Devastation is an understatement. This is a terrible tragedy and our thoughts and prayers are with everyone who has been impacted."

He said the company was currently assisting police and Civil Defence with the official emergency response.

"We acknowledge the considerable efforts from police and Civil Defence and will continue to do whatever is necessary throughout the rescue operation."

"Our immediate focus is on supporting our staff, manuhiri and respective whānau, who have been significantly impacted and are showing immense strength and courage."

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A number of the tourists on the island when the eruption happened were from the Ovation of the Seas cruise ship, berthed in Tauranga.

Police have not confirmed nationalities, but there are fears for up to 24 Australians and at least three tourists from the UK.

The five people dead are people who were taken off the island on Monday.

National Operation Commander Deputy Commissioner John Tims told a press conference on Monday afternoon a number of people had burns.

He said further eruptions were possible.

Those dead are of a "range of nationalities", he said.

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"The experts that we've spoken to have said it is unsafe for us to go on that island. The island is unstable ... the physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island. It is important that we consider the health and safety of those that will return to the island.

Tims told an earlier press conference on Monday: "At this stage it is too dangerous for police and rescue to go on to the island ... the island is currently covered in ash and volcanic material.

"We know the urgency to get back to [the] island."

Nine News Australia is reporting 24 Australian citizens were on White Island when it erupted.

Tims told an earlier press conference it was believed fewer than 50 people were on or near it at the time of the eruption.

There were a number of tourists on or around the island at the time, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at an earlier press conference.

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"I know that there will be a huge amount of anxiety for those who had loved ones on the island at the time."

GNS is assessing the situation at the moment and is unsure if cameras on the island are still functioning.

Dr Ken Gledhill, from GNS, said: "It's not a particularly big eruption, almost like a throat-clearing eruption, and that's probably why material won't make it to the mainland."

Smoke from the eruption went around 12,000m in the air, he said.

He said it has quietened down, but added he could not be certain there would not be another eruption in the next 24 hours.

They do not believe that all of those injured by the eruption are from the cruise ship.

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Earlier on Monday, police said: "While it was initially believed there were approximately 100 people on or near the island at the time of the eruption, we now believe there were fewer than 50."

"Some of those people have been transported to shore, however a number believed to be on the island are currently unaccounted for."

Emotional families of those affected are gathering at Whakatāne wharf. People covered in ash can be seen arriving for treatment after being transported from rescue helicopters.

"Of those transported to shore, at least one has been critically injured," police said.

"Emergency services are working to ensure the safety of everyone involved, including rescue staff."

Earlier the Prime Minister said about 100 people had been believed to on or near the island. Jacinda Arden addressed the eruption at her weekly post-Cabinet meeting.

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"All our thoughts are with those affected at this stage," Ardern said.

Police were alerted of the eruption at 2.17pm, she said.

GNS says the eruption happened at 2.11pm and sent a plume of ash 12,000ft above the vent. Ash has covered the main crater floor and continues to fall on the island.

Images from the island just minutes earlier showed people walking close to the crater.

People can be seen inside the crater just before the eruption. Photo / GeoNet
People can be seen inside the crater just before the eruption. Photo / GeoNet

The cruise ship Ovation of the Seas berthed at the Port of Tauranga on Monday morning.

Focus Live: One confirmed dead in White Island eruption as police say 'there will likely be more' fatalities.

Port company chief executive Mark Cairns said he understood the majority of those injured in the eruption were from the ship.

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Cairns said the cruise ship berthed on Monday morning and was due to depart last night, but its movements are now uncertain.

Passengers scheduled to visit White Island would have caught buses to Whakatāne to join transport to the island, he said. Wealthy passengers could have travelled by helicopter.

The ship would not now be leaving Tauranga tonight, Cairns said.

A spokeswoman for the ship's owners, Royal Caribbean, said it was not certain whether any passengers from the ship were on White Island at the time of the eruption.

''We're not sure if our guests were involved. We're still gathering information at the moment.''

Reporter Katee Shanks, who is at Whakatāne wharf, said there are emotional scenes as family have gathered and are waiting for news.

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She said ambulances were arriving and boats were being moved off the wharf to accommodate the police liaison team.

A local boatie, who didn't want to be named, said he was on the water when the eruption hit and saw one of the White Island Tours boats was already heading into shore when Whakaari exploded.

The boat drove at high speed to get to the wharf and dropped off its passengers before heading back at speed towards the island.

A shelter was installed on the volcanic island in 2016 in case of an unexpected eruption like today's.

The 2.4 tonne shipping container has been placed by the Defence Force on an old mining site to provide a natural protective barrier. It's not yet clear whether the shelter was used today.

And a man whose Facebook profile says he works at White Island Tours, Calvin Kingi, has posted a photo of the island erupting, saying:

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"White Island just erupted as we left, we have our work mates and a tour still on the island, I hope they [are] okay."

Kingi later said the boat he was on was returning to the island: "We have people in critical condition [to] help."

Tourism Bay of Plenty spokeswoman said Volcanic Helicopters and a boat have still not been accounted for.

Eruption on White Island today. Photo / Supplied
Eruption on White Island today. Photo / Supplied

Meanwhile, several rescue helicopters were on their way and an emergency operation centre has urgently been set up at Whakatāne Hospital.

The eruption as seen from a GeoNet camera on the island.
The eruption as seen from a GeoNet camera on the island.

The National Emergency Management Agency has issued a national warning and is saying it's hazardous in the vicinity of the volcano after the "moderate" eruption.

Civil Defence is telling people to stay out of the designated restricted zones, where ashfall may be a problem, and is warning people who live close to the island to stay indoors.

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Long term resident Maree Reeve said it was "possibly the worst eruption she had even seen from the island".

Massive plumes of smoke from Whakaari/White Island. Photo / via zurraspismo on Twitter
Massive plumes of smoke from Whakaari/White Island. Photo / via zurraspismo on Twitter

Dan Harvey was out fishing with some friends 40km/h away from the island when he saw dark smoke erupting from it before 2.15pm.

"I looked over and saw a burst of steam coming up. There was nothing above the island at that time. It was just clear blue sky. It was unusual to see it go from nothing to steam erupting out of it.

"It was almost like a mushroom cloud ... the steam was expanding and getting bigger.

"I knew it was odd because there was nothing above it. Often it's doing this small continuous release of steam. But it wasn't doing anything then all of a sudden this massive amount of cloud comes out."

Harvey said it's still erupting steam but it was nothing like it was when it first erupted.
He added that it happened so quickly and fast that if there were anyone on the island it wouldn't be good.

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CEO of Tourism Bay of Plenty Kristin Dunne, said it was a "shocking" event.

"Our concern is for any visitors that have been on the island and how we can assist when they return to the mainland," she said.

The company is working closely with police and civil defence to establish more information, she said.

A volcanic eruption is hazardous in the immediate vicinity of the volcano, police said.

"Volcanic hazards may impact on and near the volcano. Ashfall may impact areas distant from the volcano. People should stay out of designated restricted zones.

"A no-fly zone has been established.

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"People living in or near the affected ashfall areas should:

1. Be aware of the potential for ashfall. Consider staying indoors. Volcanic ash could be a health hazard, especially if you suffer from breathing difficulties.

2. When indoors, close all windows and doors to limit the entry of volcanic ash.

3. If caught in volcanic ashfalls: Wear a dust mask or use a cloth handkerchief over your nose and mouth; protect your eyes by wearing goggles. Wear eyeglasses, NOT contact lenses as fine ash will get under the lens.

4. Listen to the radio and/or TV for further assessment and updates.

5. Effects of a volcanic eruption can be experienced many kilometres from a volcano.

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