Cruise Ship Tourists Killed In Volcano Eruption [VIDEO]

NBC News reports:

A volcano open to tour groups unexpectedly erupted off the coast of New Zealand on Monday, killing at least five people, authorities said. Officials were unsure of the exact number of people who were missing or injured. Search-and-rescue operations on the island have stalled because it is too dangerous to approach the island, said John Tims, deputy commissioner of the national police.

“The island is unstable and there is the possibility of further eruption. The physical environment is unsafe,” he added. “It is important for us to consider the health and safety of those who are going to rescue.” Jonathon Fishman, a spokesman for Royal Caribbean Cruises, told NBC News that multiple guests aboard the ship Ovation of the Seas were touring the island, which in quieter times is a tourist attraction popular with birdwatchers.

Reuters reports:

A webcam set up on New Zealand’s White Island volcano shows at least one group of tourists were inside the crater moments before it erupted and blanketed the area in a massive ash cloud.

A crater rim camera owned and operated by New Zealand geological hazards agency GeoNet shows groups of people walking near the rim inside the crater, where white smoke constantly billows at a low level, in the hour leading up to the eruption at 2:11 p.m..

The camera, along with three others from different vantage points, captures and posts images online of the volcano, also known by its Maori name of Whakaari, every 10 minutes.

Cruise Critic reports:

Michael Schade, who is travelling with his family, tweeted that their tour group had just left the volcano crater 20 minutes before it erupted. White Island Tours boat operators helped rescue some people from the island, but helicopters “looked destroyed”, he said.

Royal Caribbean’s 4,905-passenger Ovation of the Seas arrived at the nearby Port of Tauranga this morning, and it is understood that most of the missing tourists were visiting White Island on the cruise line’s shore excursion.

Ovation of the Seas was due to depart this evening but instead will stay in Tauranga tonight. The ship is almost halfway through a 12-night cruise from Sydney.