Whakaari/ White Island volcano activity jumps after minor eruption

2:16 pm on 24 May 2024
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Photo: GeoNet

An earlier version of this story described Volcanic Activity Level 3 as the "highest level". There are 5 levels in the alert system.

GNS Science has raised the Volcanic Activity Level for Whakaari / White Island to 3 after an eruption on Friday at 8.20am.

Emergency Management Bay of Plenty spokesperson said there was no risk to people on land, the main potential hazard to the mainland was ashfall, and that did not appear to have been generated.

But the spokesperson said ashfall safety advice and other information had been posted via public channels and shared this with local media.

In consultation with the BOPRC Harbourmaster, it is advising all vessels to avoid the waters around Whakaari / White Island until further notice.

The spokesperson said there was nothing to see, and people put themselves at risk of harm if there was a further eruption.

There may also be debris and ashfall in the area around the island.

Scientists are on an observation flight out to Whakaari / White Island after a minor eruption this morning.

The Volcanic Alert Level has been increased to 3, but Bay of Plenty Emergency Management says there is no risk to people on land.

GNS Science volcanologist Geoff Kilgour told Midday Report the eruption rose to about 3km, but activity had been quiet since.

Scientists were sent out to the island in a helicopter to see what had happened and would report back with more information soon, Kilgour said.

MetService will also be monitoring the area.

"The minor eruption ... was seen as a vigorous steam plume above the island," GNS Science volcanologist Yannik Behr said.

Witnesses have described smoke rising from Whakaari / White Island on Friday morning.

A resident near the island told RNZ there was a "good eruption going on" with "big plumes smoke and ash".

A deadly eruption of the volcano killed 22 people and injured 25 others in 2019.

A lengthy legal process followed the tragedy and resulted in the conviction of the company managing the privately-owned island, Whakaari Management. Six parties other pleaded guilty and six had charges dismissed.

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