Key Points:

  • Five people confirmed dead and eight are missing, presumed killed
  • 34 people rescued from the island, many with severe burns - 31 remain in hospital
  • Police say there are no further signs of life
  • Many of the victims are foreign tourists, including from Australia, US, UK, Malaysia and China
  • NZ Defence Force to approach island at first light today
  • Drones due to be deployed to assess environment

A former Australian senator has been criticised after posting an insensitive tweet in the wake of the eruption of Whakaari/White Island.

Controversial New South Wales politician David Leyonhjelm made the comments in response to shocking video taken by American Michael Schade, which was shared around the world after it was posted to Twitter.

In response to the video, which shows the moments after Whakaari/White Island erupted and ash filled the sky, Leyonhjelm tweeted: "But the emissions ...."


Outraged commenters replied to the tweet, calling him out for being "insensitive" and saying "people have died or been injured. Grow up".

"People are dead and missing, you insensitive dolt," said one. "I supposed you'll be cracking wise about the bushfires next - I mean what's the loss of life and property in comparison to a chance to drag out your tired, old talking points?"

Another asked: "You have no shame do you?"

White Island erupts: Dramatic moment Whakaari/White Island volcano erupts
White Island volcano erupts in Bay of Plenty: 5 dead, 8 missing, 31 in hospital
100 people on Whakaari/White Island when it erupted
Whakaari/White Island erupts: What you need to know

One user pointed out that an eruption "would have to be three times Mt St Helens plus one Pinatubo eruption per day to come close to human emissions."

Leyonhjelm retired from politics last year but hit the headlines again earlier this year after a court found that he had defamed Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young in a series of interviews in which he suggested she "stop shagging men".