At least five persons were killed while several others were unaccounted for after a volcano erupted at a popular tourist spot in New Zealand.
The New Zealand police said more fatalities are "likely."
However, authorities are yet to be able to further rescue operations, as approaching the White Island volcano, which erupted at 2:11 pm local time (1:11 GMT), is "unsafe."
50 tourists present near site; 23 rescued
White Island volcano, or Whakaari, is one of the country's most active volcanoes and popular tourist spots.
The police said there had been 50 people near the site at the time of the eruption and 23 had been rescued.
Police Deputy Commissioner John Tims said an "unaccounted" number of people remain on the island, adding it was "too dangerous" for rescue operations.
Volcanic activity diminished since eruption
New Zealand's geological hazard monitoring website GeoNet had previously raised the Volcanic Alert from Level 4 (5 being the highest). However, in the latest update, the threat of the "short-lived" eruption was lowered to Level 3, since "activity appears to have diminished since the eruption."
Tourists included New Zealanders, visitors from overseas
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed that the 50 tourists included both "New Zealanders and visitors from overseas."
Reportedly, apart from the five people killed, others sustained burn injuries, with at least one person critically injured among those rescued.
Whakatane mayor Judy Turner told Agence France-Presse that emergency services are "frantically" trying to rescue people from the island and offer medical support.
Tourists spotted inside crater minutes before explosion on live feed
Further, concerns have been raised about a group of tourists spotted inside the crater on a GeoNet live feed just minutes before the eruption. The group was caught on a crater-rim camera, which went dark when the eruption occurred.
Left five minutes before the volcano erupted: Eyewitness
A visitor who witnessed the eruption, Michael Schade, told BBC, "We had just got on the boat...then someone pointed it out and we saw it."
Schade added, "The boat turned back and we grabbed some people that were waiting on the pier."
Another witness, Allessandro Kauffmann said in an Instagram story, "We left five minutes before the volcano erupted," sharing visuals of the eruption.
Rescue operations underway; falling ash causing hindrance: Prime Minister
PM Ardern said, "I know there will be a huge amount of concern and anxiety for those who have loved ones at the island at that time - and I can assure them the police are doing everything they can," adding falling ash was hampering rescue operations.
Commissioner Tims said, "The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island."
White Island erupted frequently in recent years
White Island is located 50km offshore in the Bay of Plenty. It attracts 10,000 people every year.
According to GeoNet, about 70% of the volcano lies underwater.
In the past half-century, it has erupted frequently, most recently in 2016, however, no one was injured.
In August, a shipping container was airlifted onto the island as an emergency shelter in the event of an eruption.