TVNZ report that one of the rescue helicopters is now tasked “just with taking blood from Auckland Hospital to Whakātane hospital”.
There will be a police and emergency press conference in half an hour.
Some more footage from a tourist on a boat near White Island today
Professor Shane Cronin, a volcanologist at the University of Auckland, says that the kind of eruption we saw today can commonly occur with no warning.
“Sudden, unheralded eruptions from volcanoes such as White Island can be expected at any time,” he said. “Magma is close to the surface, and the heat and gases from this heat the surface and ground waters to form vigorous hydrothermal systems. We know hydrothermal and so-called ‘phreatic’ eruptions can occur suddenly and with little or no warning because they are driven by the expansion of super-heated water into steam.
“The hazards expected from such events are the violent ejection of hot blocks and ash, and formation of ‘hurricane-like’ currents of wet ash and coarse particles that radiate from the explosion vent.
“These can be deadly in terms of causing impact trauma, burns and respiratory problems. The eruptions are short-lived, but once one occurs, there are high chances for further, generally smaller ones as the system re-equilibrates.”
Video purporting to be from today’s eruption has been uploaded to Instagram by a tourist on a cruise boat.
It was originally posted to Instagram, 50 minutes ago, and has now been shared by a variety of other accounts.
The Guardian has not yet independently verified the video.
Images from Whakatāne, where ambulances are taking injured people to hospital.
The NZ Department of Conservation has confirmed to the NZ Herald that there were no staff on the island today.
Fewer than 50 on island, one critically injured
New Zealand police have just issued a revised figure for the number of people on or near White Island. That number is now fewer than 50.
However, a number of people are still unaccounted for, and of those taken to shore, at least one is “critically injured”.
“While it was initially believed there were approximately 100 people on or near the island at the time of the eruption, we now believe there were fewer than 50,” police say.
“Some of those people have been transported to shore, however a number believed to be on the island are currently unaccounted for. Of those transported to shore, at least one has been critically injured.”
Geonet have provided their latest update. Volcanic activity has calmed down, meaning that only “a minor amount” of ash will reach coastal towns and cities.
“Our monitoring data shows that there was a short-lived eruption that generated an ash plume to ~12,000ft above the vent,” the science agency has said.
“Ash fall appears to be confined to the island and we do not expect more than a minor amount of ash to reach East Cape in the coming hours.
“We have seen a steady decline in activity since the eruption. There remains significant uncertainty as to future changes but currently, there are no signs of escalation.”
Seven rescue helicopters dispatched
Seven helicopters have been dispatched to the island by St John Ambulance.
A national warning has been issued for the eruption. New Zealand Police are advising people that volcanic ash could pose a major health hazard.
Roads have been closed in the town of Whakatāne, which is the closest to White Island, and the Whakatāne hospital has been turned into an emergency operation centre.
“Effects of a volcanic eruption can be experienced many kilometres from a volcano,” say NZ Police.
“Be aware of the potential for ashfall. Consider staying indoors. Volcanic ash could be a health hazard, especially if you suffer from breathing difficulties. When indoors, close all windows and doors to limit the entry of volcanic ash.
“If caught in volcanic ashfalls: Wear a dust mask or use a cloth handkerchief over your nose and mouth; protect your eyes by wearing goggles. Wear eyeglasses, not contact lenses as fine ash will get under the lens.”
Whakaari/White Island is New Zealand’s most active cone volcano. It is a popular tourist and scientific research site.
According to the science agency GeoNet, today’s eruption was a level four, signifying a “moderate” volcanic eruption. The scale runs from zero to five.
Our most recent full story is live here:
Prime minister Jacinda Ardern addressed media earlier, and confirmed that there were 100 people near the island.
“Police were alerted at 2.17pm,” Ardern said. “At this stage, and please do keep in mind this is an evolving situation, we believe around 100 people were on or around the island at the time and some of those are at this stage unaccounted for.
“I want to share this is evolving at this stage, at this stage it does appear to be a very significant issue, particularly the scale of those affected.”
Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the Whakaari/White Island volcano eruption.
There are roughly 100 people potentially affected by the eruption, and an emergency rescue operation is under way.
St John Ambulance has told Guardian Australia there are up to 20 people injured. There are still other people currently unaccounted for.
The eruption occured at 2.10pm local time – an hour and a half ago
The volcano is 48 km off the Bay of Plenty, on the north island’s east coast.