The death toll is likely to rise, as eight people are still missing. Police do not expect to find any more survivors.
“This is very sadly a recovery operation,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.
Police believe anyone who could have been taken from the island alive was rescued during the initial evacuation.
“No signs of life have been seen at any point,” New Zealand police said after sending rescue helicopters on reconnaissance flights over the island.
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A total of 31 people remain in hospital, some in critical condition. Three people were discharged overnight.
Burns are the “dominant injury,” according to Ardern.
Approximately 50 people, mostly tourists, were nearby the volcano at the time of the eruption. A number of them were spotted on a live feed from the volcano’s crater minutes earlier.
At this time, there are no reports of any Canadians affected by the incident.
“Consular officials are in contact with local authorities to gather more information,” Global Affairs Canada told Global News in a statement. “We offer sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of the victims, and wish those injured a speedy recovery.”
Ardern said those missing and injured are from Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, Malaysia and China. “To the best of our knowledge,” she said.
Rescue efforts have been stalled due to the ongoing risk of new eruptions. Before the island was declared unsafe, tour boats helped rescue at least 23 people, according to Reuters.
A Royal Caribbean cruise liner, Ovation of the Seas, was at the island at the time of the eruption. The island is a popular destination for day tours by boat.
More than 10,000 people visit the volcano every year.
The New Zealand Red Cross set up a website where people can register missing friends or family.
“It is a very unpredictable volcano,” Ardern told reporters at a news conference local time Tuesday. “There will be questions that will be asked and do need to be answered by the appropriate authorities. And we will be ensuring that happens. But for now, we are focused on those caught up in this horrific event.”
Two Brazillian tourists captured the moment the volcano erupted.
Aline Moura and Allessandro Kauffmann had left the island just a short time before the eruption happened. In a video posted to Instagram, they described the panic and fear.
“Another boat completely turned to ashes,” Moura said, as reported by Reuters. “We were very, very lucky.”
Their boat ultimately turned back to help rescue those left on the island.
“I’m not sure if everyone got out alive,” Moura said. “Because of the air, the water, it was hot so everyone had burns. Some were seriously burned, others a bit less, and I’m not sure if they managed to rescue everyone. We hope they did. We were there for a long time. The volcano was still active, but the eruption had already occurred.”
The volcano last erupted in 2006, though it was short-lived. It also erupted in 1914, killing 12 people.
GeoNet, a geological hazard tracker, reported an increase in volcanic activity on the island in November and increased its alert level.
Ardern and local officials say crews will return to the island “only when deemed safe to do so.” At this point, it’s unclear when that may be.
— With files from Reuters
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