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- AFP09th Dec 2019 12:49:02 GMT +0300
Five people were killed, 18 were injured and several more were left stranded after an island volcano popular with tourists erupted unexpectedly in New Zealand on Monday.
Police said some 50 people were visiting White Island when it exploded suddenly in the early afternoon — hurling ash and rock high into the air.
Two dozen people made it off the island, five of whom have since died. The rest are being treated for injuries, including severe burns.
Nothing is yet known about a group — now estimated to number in the double digits — who are still trapped on the island.
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“We’re unsure of the exact numbers on there and we’re unsure of their wellbeing,” said deputy commissioner John Tims.
As night fell, he said volcanic activity made a rescue attempt too dangerous.
“The island is unstable, there’s a danger of further eruptions, it is physically unsafe for us to return to the island”
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“I’ve got to consider the safety of our people and emergency services staff.”
The eruption occurred at 2:11pm (0111 GMT), thrusting a thick plume of white ash 3.6 kilometres (12,000 feet) into the sky.
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Seconds before, live camera feeds showed a group of more than a half dozen people walking on the crater floor. Then the images went black.
A “considerable number” of those caught up in the disaster are believed to be Australian, according to officials in Canberra.
As many as 30 people are also beli
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