Volcano Eruption in New Zealand Reportedly Injures Cruise Passengers

White Island eruption
White Island erupting. Photo courtesy of Michael Schade (@sch on Twitter).

Through multiple reports, we have learned that a volcano eruption in New Zealand has claimed five lives and injured 18 others, with at least some of those people thought to be passengers on an excursion from Royal Caribbean’s Ovation of the Seas.

Ovation of the Seas was making a port of call in Tauranga, about 50 miles from a volcanic island called White Island.

Map data: Google

White Island is New Zealand’s most active volcano and visited by thousands of tourists annually. For years it has seen a number of small eruptions that belched and spewed ash with smaller steam explosions. Reports say that authorities recently raised the Volcanic Alert Level — a 0-5 scale based on the amount of activity in a particular volcano — to “2” last month. This signifies “moderate to heightened volcanic unrest.”

According to reports, about 50 people were on the island at the time of eruption. While it is unknown exactly how many were from Ovation of the Seas, the cruise line did confirm that “a number of our guests were touring the island today.”

A statement made to CruiseCritic continued, “We do not have any additional details to share at this time. Ovation of the Seas will remain overnight until we learn more about the situation. We will offer all possible assistance to our guests and local authorities. Please keep all those affected in your prayers.”

Twitter reports from Michael Schade — a person visiting the island just before it erupted — show dramatic pictures. In these photos you can see the entire area covered in ash and a destroyed helicopter. They also show rescuers heading back to the island to search for visitors.

It’s reported that White Island erupted at roughly 2:15 p.m. local time. Unfortunately, police now believe there are no more survivors.

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