No More Survivors In New Zealand Volcano Tragedy, Police Say
New Zealand police say a number of people remain unaccounted for after a volcano erupted on the country's North Island on Monday, but they no longer believe there is any chance any of them have survived.
It comes as Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed on Monday night that at least 24 Australians were involved in the tragedy, a number of whom have been hospitalised or remain unaccounted for.
The Prime Minister said there is still no comprehensive or confirmed information about the well-being of all those involved.
"We must prepare for some difficult news in the days ahead," Morrison said.
In a statement on Monday night local time, NZ police said helicopters and other aircraft had spent the evening undertaking a number of reconnaissance flights over the island since the eruption occurred.
"No signs of life have been seen at any point," the statement said.
"Police believe that anyone who could have been taken from the island alive was rescued at the time of the evacuation."
"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island."
Authorities are now working to determine the exact number of casualties which they believe will be in addition to the five people confirmed dead on Monday.
Earlier, NZ Deputy Police Commissioner John Tims said many of those missing since the eruption were from cruise ship Ovation Of The Seas, which had sailed from Sydney, but both New Zealand and overseas tourists were believed to be involved.
Tims did not confirm which nationalities were involved in the tragedy, but said the number of people still trapped on White Island was in the "double digits".
Twenty-three people have so far been rescued and 18 people have been injured, police confirmed.
"Due to the current risk, emergency services are unable to reach the island ... A number of people have burns as a result of the eruption."
Tims' update came as Scott Morrison called the eruption a "terrible tragedy" and confirmed Australians were involved.
On Monday night, the Prime Minister said Australian Federal Police were liaising with consular staff in New Zealand and with the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line Company.
"Jenny and I extend our love to all the individuals and families affected. This is a terrible and anxious time for them," Morrison said.
"Thank you to all those who put themselves at risk today to protect and save others, and those now caring for the injured."
Foreign Minister Marise Pyne said "her thoughts" are with those affected and that Australia stands "ready to help our close friend and neighbour."
"Our High Commission is in close contact with NZ authorities and we will move quickly to give consular help to Australians hurt in this tragedy," she wrote on Twitter.
It's understood about 50 people were on the island, which is located near the Bay of Plenty when the volcano erupted at 2:11pm NZT.
Ovation Of The Seas ship captain reportedly told passengers that a group of tourists and one crew member were on the island when the volcano erupted.
The ship had sailed from Sydney and was visiting Whakaari at the time.
A spokesperson of Royal Caribbean, the ship's owner, told 10 daily it will stay docked in the nearby port of Tauranga “until we learn more about the situation”.
"We are providing all the help and care we can to our guests and their families, including offering medical resources and counseling," the spokesperson said.
Video footage uploaded by a terrified boat passenger as he and other tourists fled the scene, showed smoke and ash billowing out of the volcano.
American Michael Schade wrote on Twitter that he and his family had left the island 20 minutes before the volcano erupted, spewing smoke into the air.
Tour worker Calvin Kingi shared a picture in the aftermath of the eruption to Facebook.
"We have our workmates and a tour still on the island, I hope they [are] ok," he wrote.
Tims said earlier that it was too dangerous for rescue crews to go to the island.
"At this stage, it is too dangerous for police and rescue to go on to the island ... the island is currently covered in ash and volcanic material," he said.
Grave fears remain for a group of people that were pictured walking on the crater floor of the volcano right before it erupted.
"It's just a very very difficult time and our thoughts go out to those families with people who are there," GNS Volcanologist Geoff Kilgour said.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern arrived at Whakatane at 10pm (local time) on Monday to be briefed on the situation, which she said was "significant and evolving".
"I know that there will be a huge amount of anxiety for those who had loved ones on the island at the time," she said.
Jacinda Ardern arrives in Whakatāne for a briefing on the situation. Image: Tom Lee/Stuff
Anyone concerned about loved ones can call DFAT's 24-hour consular emergency number on 1300 555 135 from within Australia or +61 2 6261 3305 from overseas. New Zealand police say people from overseas can call +64 9105 105 to submit information regarding friends or family who might have been visiting White Island during the eruption.