PM headed to Whakatāne tonight as police confirm first White Island eruption death, with more expected

One person has been confirmed dead in the White Island eruption today, and more fatalities are likely, police say. 

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The Prime Minister assured people who had loved ones on White Island this afternoon. Source: 1 NEWS

Deputy police commissioner of district operations John Tims confirmed the fatality after the eruption of White Island (Whakaari), off the coast of Whakatāne at 2.11pm today. 

Mr Tims said 23 people had been taken from the island. However, police believed there were about 50 people in total on the island when the eruption occurred. 

"I can confirm one fatality, and there are likely to be more," he told media. 

The person who died had been transported back to shore. There is no contact with people still on the island. 

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Deputy Commissioner of District Operations John Tims confirmed that one person had been killed on White Island this afternoon. Source: 1 NEWS

"It continues to be an evolving situation," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told media. 

She said there were both New Zealanders and visitors from overseas who were on the island at the time of the eruptions. 

Ms Ardern said there would be a "huge amount of concern and anxiety" by family and friends of the people on the island. 

"I can assure them police are doing everything they can."

She is travelling to Whakatāne tonight. 

"Our focus is to ensure police and emergency management have all the resources they need."