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New Zealand volcano eruption leaves 5 dead, 8 unaccounted for

World·Updated

There are no signs of life on a New Zealand island where a volcano erupted Monday, police say.

Thick smoke from the volcanic eruption of Whakaari, also known as White Island, is seen from a distance of a vessel in New Zealand on Monday in this image obtained via social media. (@SCH/Reuters)

A volcanic island in New Zealand erupted Monday in a tower of ash and steam while dozens of tourists were exploring the moon-like surface, killing five people and leaving more missing.

The island is too unstable to search, police said, but a helicopter surveyed the area. "Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," police said in a statement.

Police Deputy Commissioner John Tims had previously said the number of missing was in the double digits, but couldn't confirm an exact number. He said there were fewer than 50 people on the island when it erupted and 23 had been taken off, including the five dead.

Tims said said there had been no contact with any of the missing.

Tour guides evacuate tourists on a boat shortly after the volcano eruption.(@SCH/Reuters)

He said both New Zealanders and overseas tourists were among those who were dead, missing or injured. Most of the 18 survivors were injured and some had suffered severe burns, he said.

Tristan Webb, director with a skydiving company in New Zealand, saw the eruption from above.

"When we exited the aircraft, pretty much immediately we could see the plume, almost beginning to envelop the entire island," Webb told CBC News Network.

There were no signs Monday the "steady stream of smoke that we constantly see off the island was any more or any less than what it normally would be," Webb said. "But it was just very rapid in terms of the way it expanded."

Some of those involved were tourists from the Royal Caribbean International cruise ship Ovation of the Seas.

"A number of our guests were touring the island today," the company said. "We will offer all possible assistance to our guests and local authorities. Please keep all those affected in your prayers."

The cruise ship, which had left from Sydney last week, was scheduled to sail to the capital Wellington on Monday night, but the company said it would instead remain in the Tauranga port overnight until it learned more on the situation.

With files from CBC News

Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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