White Island tour operators rescue people after a deadly volcanic eruption off the coast of New Zealand Monday, Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade took these photos, tweeting that he and his family got off the island only 20 minutes before the eruption. (Michael Schade/Twitter photo)

No reports yet of Canadians affected by New Zealand volcano eruption, feds say

Missing and injured included tourists from the U.S., China, Australia, Britain and Malaysia

Global Affairs Canada has not yet received any reports of Canadian citizens being affected by the volcanic eruption off the New Zealand coast, a spokesperson has confirmed.

The White Island volcano erupted on Monday at about 2 p.m. as dozens of tourists were exploring its moon-like surface — some walking along the rim of the crater just before the eruption — killing five people and leaving eight others missing and feared dead, authorities said.

Hours after the disaster, the site was still too dangerous for rescuers to search for the missing. But aircraft flew over the island repeatedly, and “no signs of life have been seen at any point,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

Ardern said the missing and injured included New Zealanders and tourists from the U.S., China, Australia, Britain, and Malaysia. Some of those who were exploring the volcano were passengers from the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Ovation of the Seas, docked on neighbouring North Island.

Global Affairs Canada Spokesperson Guillaume Bérubé told Black Press Media the Government of Canada is closely monitoring the situation.

“At this time, there are no reports of any Canadian citizens being affected,” Bérubé said in an email. “Consular officials are in contact with local authorities to gather more information.”

Canadians in need of emergency consular assistance can contact the High Commission of Canada in New Zealand at +64 4 473-9577, he added. They can also call the Emergency Watch and Response Centre 24/7 at +1 613-996-8885 or email sos@international.gc.ca.

“We offer sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims, and wish those injured a speedy recovery.”

READ MORE: 5 dead, many more missing in eruption of New Zealand volcano

According to authorities, 47 people were on the island at the time of the eruption. In addition to the dead and missing, 31 survivors were hospitalized and three others were released. Some of the victims were reported severely burned.

The eruption consisted of two explosions in quick succession, the prime minister said. It sent a plume of steam and ash an estimated 3,660 metres into the air. One of the boats that returned from the island was covered with ash half a meter thick, Ardern said.

The GeoNet agency, which monitors volcanoes and earthquakes in New Zealand, had raised the alert level on White Island on Nov. 18 from 1 to 2 on a scale where 5 represents a major eruption, noting an increase in sulfur dioxide gas, which originates from magma deep in the volcano. It also said that volcanic tremors had increased from weak to moderate strength.

Ardern said White Island is a “very unpredictable volcano,” and questions about whether tourists should be visiting will have to be addressed, “but for now, we’re focused on those who are caught up in this horrific event.”

READ MORE: 320 years since the ‘Big One’ doesn’t mean it’s overdue: Canada Research Chair

— With files from Mark Baker and Nick Perry, The Associated Press

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