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Sixth person dies after volcano eruption

Families of Britons initially feared missing have described their worries after Monday’s incident in New Zealand.

White Island seen erupting on Monday (Michael Schade/AP)
White Island seen erupting on Monday (Michael Schade/AP)

By Ryan Hooper and Emma Bowden, PA

A sixth person has died after a volcanic eruption on White Island in New Zealand, police said.

Two British women are among around 30 people taken to hospital following the incident on Monday, many of which have suffered serious burns, while eight people are missing presumed dead.

Survivors described how tourists were forced to run into the sea to escape the clouds of thick black ash and scalding vapour.

New Zealand police confirmed officers are investigating the incident on behalf of the coroner but said it was too early to speculate on any potential criminal activity.

White Island, off the country’s North Island in the Bay of Plenty, erupted while dozens of people were exploring New Zealand’s most active volcano.

Relatives of those thought to be caught up in the disaster have registered their loved ones’ details on a missing persons list in an effort to ascertain their whereabouts.

Other Britons feared missing have got in touch with concerned relatives.

Ian Evans said his brother Matthew Evans, 38, originally from Carmarthen in Wales, who was one of the Britons listed as missing, is safe and well.

Mr Evans told PA: “He was travelling with his new wife, he was trekking at the time and we were concerned because we hadn’t heard from him for 24 hours.

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(PA Graphics)

“But they are safe. They were in the North Island, away from the Bay of Plenty.

“They said they had no idea what had gone on.”

Laura Clarke, the UK’s High Commissioner to New Zealand, said in a Tweet: “We are supporting the family of two women who have been hospitalised in New Zealand. My team are deploying to offer assistance in person, & we remain in close contact with authorities. We will do all we can to help any other Brits who need our help. #Whakaari”

Conditions on the island remain too dangerous for rescue workers to attend on Tuesday, with a 50% chance of another small eruption, but officials said flyovers had revealed no signs of life.

The dead are thought to be buried beneath piles of ash, with most of the 47 people on the island at the time of the eruption believed to be from Australia.

Many were passengers aboard the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Ovation of the Seas.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told parliament the “scale of this tragedy is devastating”.

“We know, too, there will be bigger questions in relation to this event. These questions must be asked and they must be answered,” she said.

“But our focus now is on discharging our duty of care to support those affected and that is also the focus of the police.”

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said 11 Australians were unaccounted for, with 13 in hospital.

Media reports said plastic surgeons had been called in from several private practices to help hospitals treat the many people severely burnt in the eruption.

White Island, also known by the Maori name Whakaari, is the tip of an undersea volcano 30 miles off the coast.

Scientists had noted an increase in volcanic activity in recent weeks, leading to questions as to why tourists were still being allowed on the island.

PA

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