A volcano frequented by tourists on a small New Zealand island erupted, leaving at least five dead and several unaccounted for. As many as 100 people were in the vicinity when the eruption began at 14:11 local time (01:11GMT) on White Island, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the east coast of North Island, authorities said, sending up smoke visible from the mainland. White Island sits about 50 kilometres (30 miles) offshore from mainland New Zealand. Already people are questioning why tourists were still able to visit the island after scientists recently noted an uptick in volcanic activity.
The GeoNet agency, which monitors volcanoes and earthquakes in New Zealand, raised the alert level on White Island from one to two on Nov. 18, noting an increase in the amount of sulfur dioxide gas, which originates from magma deep in the volcano. It also said at the time that over the previous weeks, the volcanic tremor had increased from weak to moderate strength. The island is also known by the indigenous Maori name Whakaari.