Two British women among injured after New Zealand volcano eruption kills at least five

Two British women are in hospital after being injured in a volcanic eruption in New Zealand, the UK High Commissioner to the country has said.

Thirteen people are feared to have died and dozens have been injured following the eruption on White Island in the country's Bay of Plenty on Monday afternoon.

Five people have been confirmed dead, but eight are still missing and police said there that "no signs of life have been seen at any point" following the eruption.

Only one victim has been named, New Zealand tour guide Hayden Marshall-Inman. His brother said he died doing what he loved.

Thirty one people remain in hospital, many of them suffering from burns, with a number of people in a critical condition.

Hayden Marshall-Inman died 'doing what he loved'. Credit: ITV News

High Commissioner to New Zealand and Samoa Laura Clarke has tweeted that her team are offering assistance to the family of two British women hospitalised by the volcanic eruption on White Island.

"We are supporting the family of two (GB) women who have been hospitalised in New Zealand," she tweeted.

"My team are deploying to offer assistance in person, & we remain in close contact with (NZ) authorities. We will do all we can to help any other Brits who need our help."

Dozens of tourists were on or near White Island when it erupted on Monday. Credit: @sch

Speaking to reporters earlier, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said nationals from New Zealanders, Australia, the US, the UK, China and Malaysia were among those missing or injured.

She said: "To those who have lost or are missing family and friends we share in your unfathomable grief at this moment in time and in your sorrow.

"Your loved ones stood alongside Kiwis who are hosting you here and we grieve with you and we grieve with them."

The volcano eruption has left one person dead and many others are unaccounted for. Credit: @sch

A missing persons list which aims to reunite concerned family members with their loved ones shows up to five people with a UK birthplace still unaccounted for.

The island was still too dangerous hours later for police and rescuers to return there to search for the missing.

Instead helicopters and military aircraft were used to survey the island for any sign of survivors.

NZP is now working "urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died."

New Zealand Red Cross has a website listing missing people following the eruption.

Police said around 50 people, New Zealanders and tourists, were on or near White Island when it erupted and 23 had been taken off, including the five dead.

Some of those involved were guests from the Royal Caribbean International cruise ship Ovation of the Seas.

"A number of our guests were touring the island today," the company said.

"We will offer all possible assistance to our guests and local authorities. Please keep all those affected in your prayers."

The cruise ship, which had left from Sydney last week, was scheduled to sail to the capital Wellington on Monday night but the company said it would instead remain in the Tauranga port overnight until it learned more on the situation.

Skydiver Tristan Webb saw the volcanic explosion at White Island, New Zealand as he was in free fall from a plane.

He said: "We quite often see a small plume coming from White Island on most days when we’re skydiving from Tauranga but yesterday when we exited the aircraft we kind of, it’s one of the sites you immediately look for.

"You could see the plume developing rather rapidly and in the space of about 45 seconds which is the length of time of free fall it had grown to what I can best describe as like a huge cloud, it almost enveloped the island completely."

The volcano erupted on the country's White Island. Credit: Twitter/@sch

"My god,” wrote Michael Schade on Twitter as he posted video of the eruption.

“My family and I had gotten off it 20 minutes before, were waiting at our boat about to leave when we saw it. Boat ride home tending to people our boat rescued was indescribable.”

His video showed a wall of ash and steam around the island and helicopters badly damaged and covered in ash.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said people who were injured in the eruption were being transported to shore.

She said the incident appeared to be “very significant”.

“All our thoughts are with those affected,” she said.

Many tourists are missing or injured. Credit: Twitter/@sch

Brad Scott, a volcanologist with GNS Science, said the eruption was significant and sent a plume of steam and ash about 12,000 feet (3,660 metres) into the air.

He said it had also affected the whole of the White Island crater floor.

The GeoNet agency at first raised its alert level to four, on a scale where five represents a major eruption.

It later dropped the alert level back down to three. Mr Scott said that was because the eruption wasn't sustained beyond the initial blast.

White Island sits about 50 kilometers (30 miles) offshore from mainland New Zealand.

There will be questions asked as to why tourists were still able to visit the island after scientists recently noted an uptick in volcanic activity.

New Zealanders and foreign tourists are believed to be involved. Credit: Twitter/@sch

Mr Scott said the alert level was often raised and then later dropped again without any eruption.

He said there hadn't been any major incidents with tourists visiting the island in the past, although there had been some close calls.

Scott said it was not for him to say whether the island was safe enough to host tourists immediately before Monday's eruption.

Police were asking people to avoid areas that were close to the eruption, including the Whakatane Heads and Muriwai Drive areas.

GeoNet said it is New Zealand's most active cone volcano and about 70% of the volcano is under the sea.

Twelve people were killed on the island in 1914 when it was being mined for sulfur.

Part of a crater wall collapsed and a landslide destroyed the miners' village and the mine itself.