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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Ovation of the Seas remains in port while victims are counted

From the Guardian 

Police in New Zealand have said they do not expect to find any more survivors from a volcanic eruption on White Island that killed at least five people and injured up to 20.
“No signs of life have been seen at any point,” police said after rescue helicopters and other aircraft had carried out a number of aerial reconnaissance flights over the island following the eruption on Monday afternoon. “Police believe that anyone who could have been taken from the island alive was rescued at the time of the evacuation.”
Up to two dozen people remain unaccounted for, and officers are “urgently” working to confirm the exact number of those who have died, a police statement said.
Unstable conditions, toxic gases and ash fall prevented rescue teams from searching the island – which lies 30 miles from the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, in the Bay of Plenty – on foot.
The country’s most active cone volcano erupted at 2.11pm on Monday, sending up a huge plume of ash that was visible from the North Island.
Police said about 50 people were on the island at the time, more than 20 of whom were Australian tourists. Twenty-three people have been rescued. All of those rescued had sustained injuries, mostly burns, police said, and seven people who were in a critical condition had been flown to hospitals in Tauranga and Auckland.
The prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, who visited the nearby coastal town of Whakatāne on Monday evening, said the situation was “significant and evolving”.
John Tims, the deputy police commissioner of district operations, said at least two dozen people remained on the island, but he could not be sure of the exact number. “The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island,” he said.
Ardern said she was liaising closely with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and police confirmed that those missing on the island were New Zealanders and foreign nationals.
The Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, confirmed Australians had been “caught up” in the eruption and offered emergency support.
Cruise ship won't leave port
The cruise ship Ovation of the Seas will not be leaving Tauranga for the foreseeable future. 
At least 28 of ship's passengers were understood to be on White Island during the eruption. 
Ovation was scheduled to depart last night but has remained in port. 
Royal Caribean Cruises Ltd, which owns the ship, released a statement at 4:14am this morning saying Ovation will remain in port as long as needed to assist with the situation.
The company has sent staff members from their Auckland and Sydney offices to assist family members. 

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