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Published on Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Two Britons among victims of New Zealand volcano eruption

Two British women are among those injured after a volcano erupted on New Zealand's White Island on Monday morning.

They are both receiving treatment in hospital, according to the British High Commissioner to New Zealand Laura Clarke.

New Zealand's prime minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed people from New Zealand, Australia, the US, China and Malaysia were also among those affected by the eruption on the island, which is also known as Whakaari.

She said 47 people were on the island when the volcano erupted with little warning, at around 2pm local time (1am UK time on Monday).

Of those, five are dead, eight are still missing, 31 are in hospital and three were discharged overnight.

Some 13 of the tourists are believed to be passengers from the Royal Caribbean ship Ovation of the Seas. The ship was due to sail to Wellington yesterday but has remained docked close to White Island. Passengers held a minute's silence this morning for the victims.

"Following yesterday's events, the ship stayed in Tauranga to allow our personnel to assist local authorities and support those affected by this unforeseen natural disaster," said a spokesperson.

The ship is now scheduled to set sail at 6:45am on Wednesday (17:45 GMT today) visiting Wellington and Picton before returning to Sydney. The revised itinerary has been provided to guests.

"A team will remain onsite in Tauranga and all hospital locations to ensure those affected by Monday's incident are taken care of in terms of medical help, counselling, accommodation, and transport.

"Our priority continues to be to ensure that all guests and crew impacted are well taken care of and we assist the local authorities in any way we can. We thank our guests onboard for their patience and understanding during this tragic situation.

"Our thoughts and prayers remain with those impacted," added the spokesperson.

Royal Caribbean has set up hotlines, including 0800-014-8339 in the UK, for those concerned about relatives travelling on Ovation of the Seas.

PM Ardern added there are still a number of people in critical condition with burns the most prominent injury.

Aerial reconnaissance flights showed no signs of life.

The prime minister said: "It is now clear there were two groups on the island, those who were able to be evacuated and those who were close to the eruption."

She added: "The helicopter pilot, as I understand, physically moved around the island rather than just an aerial survey and did so for some time and so brought back that report that unfortunately there were no signs of life."

British tourists in New Zealand needing urgent assistance should contact the British High Commission in Wellington on +64 (0) 4 924 2888.

Concerned relatives or friends in the UK should contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London on 020 7008 1500.

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