Mandatory Credit: Jacinda Ardern Facebook
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed that "both New Zealanders and visitors from overseas" were on White Island when a volcano erupted there earlier in the day. Ardern spoke at a press conference alongside Civil Defence Emergency Management Director Sarah Stuart-Black and Deputy Commissioner of the National Operation Command John Tims in Wellington on Monday.
According to New Zealand police, at least five people were killed and more than a dozen injured in the eruption. The deputy commissioner of the National Operation Command said that there were "fewer than 50" people on or near the island during the volcanic eruption, adding that "there is a number still remaining on the island who are currently unaccounted for."
Ardern said that "I know there will be a huge amount of concern and anxiety for those who have loved ones on or around the island at the time, and I can assure them police are doing everything they can."
Tims noted that the island remains "covered in ash and volcanic material," which he said hinders rescue efforts.
"At this stage, it is too dangerous for police and rescue services to go to the island. However, we continue to assess the conditions, which would allow us to go onto the island," added Tims.
The volcano reportedly erupted on White Island at around 14:11 local time (01:11 GMT), sending plumes of smoke and ash into the sky.