One person is confirmed dead and the toll is likely to rise after a volcano began erupting Monday afternoon off New Zealand’s North Island, one of the country’s two main islands.
While several people are still missing and some of the injured have been transported to the area hospitals, emergency teams say it is too dangerous to continue the rescue operation.
Emergency officials say around 50 people were on White island when the eruption began, fewer than initially reported by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern who said 100 tourists were “on or around” the White Island volcano, also known as Whakaari in the Maori language.
AFP reports that cameras providing a live feed from the volcano showed a group of tourists walking on the crater floor moments before the eruption occurred.
White Island sits 50 kilometers northeast of the town of Tauranga on North Island.
Authorities urged people to avoid areas on North Island near to the eruption.
GeoNet agency classified the volcanic eruption as moderate and raised its alert level to four, on a scale where five represents a major eruption.
GeoNet says White Island is New Zealand’s most active cone volcano and about 70 percent of the volcano is under the sea.