A number of Royal Caribbean passengers were caught up in an eruption on New Zealand’s White Island on Monday (9 December), the line has confirmed.
Ovation of the Seas was moored in Tauranga and some passengers were on a White Island shore excursion when the volcano erupted at about 2.11pm local time (1.11am GMT).
About 50 people in total were on the island when the eruption happened. New Zealand Police have confirmed two were British women.
There were also 24 people from Australia, two from China, four from Germany, one from Malaysia, five from New Zealand and nine from the US.
Five people have died and eight are missing, presumed dead. Police and New Zealand’s defence, fire and emergency department are continuing the rescue operation on Tuesday (10 December) using specialist gas measuring equipment and drones.
Those bodies recovered are being transported to Auckland for post-mortems, but the nature and extent of their injuries will make identification “a complex matter”, police added.
An investigation into the incident on the private island is under way, but police have stressed it was too early to confirm if it will be criminal in nature.
WorkSafe New Zealand has also opened a health and safety investigation.
New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern told parliament the scale of this tragedy was “devastating”. “Our hearts go out to the families of those who are injured, missing or deceased,” she said.
Royal Caribbean has not released how many of its passengers were caught up in the incident. Ovation of the Seas remained in Tauranga overnight.
A spokesperson from the cruise company said the incident was “heartbreaking”, adding: “We are devastated by today’s events, and our hearts go out to all those affected by this tragedy.
“We are working together with local authorities, and we are providing all the help and care we can to our guests and their families, including offering medical resources and counselling.
“We are also sending staff members from both our ship and our Sydney and Auckland offices to assist family members however possible.”
The Foreign Office has advised travellers to follow the advice of the local authorities and their tour operator. The British High Commission in Wellington can be contacted on +64 (0) 4 924 2888 for consular assistance.
Anyone who concerned about friends or relatives should contact the FCO on 020 7008 1500.