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’No sign of life on New Zealand volcano island’

Reconnaissance flights over New Zealand’s White Island volcano have not identified any survivors there after Monday’s eruption, police say.

About 50 people are thought to have been touring the uninhabited island. At least five died and 23 were rescued, some critically ill with burn injuries.

Police believe anyone who could have been found alive was evacuated.

Rescuers have been unable to search the island because of the risk of new eruptions, and it is now dark.

Tourists were seen walking inside the crater of White Island volcano moments before it erupted.

“Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island,” the latest police update says.

White Island, also called Whakaari, is the country’s most active volcano. Despite that, the privately owned island is a tourist destination with frequent day tours and scenic flights available.

Deputy Police Commissioner John Tims told reporters that “both New Zealand and overseas tourists” were believed to be involved.

White Island erupted at around 14:11 (01:11 GMT), sending up a thick plume of ash and smoke which was filmed by visitor Michael Schade.

Mr Schade, who was on a boat leaving the island after a morning tour, told the BBC he had been at the crater just 30 minutes before the disaster.

“We had just got on the boat… then someone pointed it out and we saw it,” he said.

“I was basically just shocked. The boat turned back and we grabbed some people that were waiting on the pier.”

Another witness, Brazilian Allessandro Kauffmann, said in an Instagram post in Portuguese that his boat had left five minutes before the eruption.

“This other tour that arrived right after, unfortunately they did not manage to leave in time, and there were some people that suffered serious burns,” he added.

A live feed from the volcano showed a group of visitors inside the crater before the stream went dark.

Up to 20 people are believed to have been injured, several of whom were brought by helicopter to Whakatane, the nearest town on the mainland, Reuters news agency reports.

There are few details about those caught in the eruption. Some who had gone to the island were passengers from the Ovation of the Seas, a cruise ship owned by Royal Caribbean. -BBC

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