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 many more missing. Police said the site was still too dangerous hours later for rescuers to search for the missing. Police Deputy Commissioner John Tims said the number of missing was in the double digits but he 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, the AP reports. Tims said experts had told authorities the island remained unstable but search and rescue teams wanted to get back as quickly as they could. He said there had been no contact with any of those who were missing.
Tims said both New Zealanders and overseas tourists were among the dead, missing, or injured. He said most of the 18 who survived were injured and some had suffered severe burns. White Island sits about 30 miles offshore from mainland New Zealand. Already people are questioning why tourists were still able to visit the island after scientists recently noted an uptick in volcanic activity. 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.”
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