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Number of bites, deaths has dropped in US, world

  • 64 unprovoked shark attacks were reported around the globe, which was down from the average of 82.
  • Sharks killed two people in 2019, which is below the average of four.
  • As usual, the U.S. led the world in shark attacks, with 41.

Shark attacks were down again both in the U.S. and worldwide in 2019, according to a report released Tuesday.

Last year, 64 unprovoked shark attacks were reported around the globe, down from the average of 82, according to the University of Florida’s International Shark Attack File.

As for deaths, sharks killed two people in 2019, which is below the average of four. 

Last year marked the second straight year shark attacks were well below average: There were only 62 attacks worldwide in 2018.

“We’ve had back-to-back years with unusual decreases in shark attacks, and we know that people aren’t spending less time in the water,” said Gavin Naylor, director of the Florida Museum of Natural History’s shark research program, in a statement. “This suggests sharks aren’t frequenting the same places they have in the past. But it’s too early to say this is the new normal.”

Researchers at the International Shark Attack File track “unprovoked” attacks, which are defined as incidents in which an attack on a live human occurs in the shark’s natural habitat with no human provocation.

Shark attacks:How to avoid them and whether shark repellents really work

Where do shark attacks happen?

One of the two fatal unprovoked shark attacks was near Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean, and the other was in the Bahamas.

In the U.S., on average, one person dies each year from a shark attack.

Humans kill about 100 million sharks and rays each year. Most are killed by commercial fishermen for their fins and flesh.

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Tomorrow’s world – VoxEurop (English)

Europe goes – eventually – green: some good news for starting the year. Cofounder Catherine André’s editorial.

Screen-Shot-2020-01-08-at-22-46-53-copyIn many respects, in Europe and across the world, 2020 has gotten off to a bad start — just as 2019 proved a bad ending to a decade which will be noted for its environmental catastrophes. The ice is melting at accelerated speed, flood and drought are hitting harder than ever, December’s COP25 in Madrid was a failure, uncontrollable forest fires are ravaging south-eastern Australia, bringing untold devastation to unique wildlife: quite literally, the planet is drowning, or roasting, depending on where you look.

Yet we also know: the coming decade, and the year 2020 in particular, will have to be a time of radical choices when it comes to environmental policy. The clock is ticking, as we’re so often reminded by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Meanwhile, global CO2 emissions have never stopped rising, despite the commitments undertaken by the 183 signatory states of the 2015 Paris agreement. At COP26, set to take place next November in Glasgow, governments will have to propose new action plans to limit the impact of global warming — while so little time remains.

The European Green Deal, presented on 11 December by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, shows new ambition. Is it capable of making Europe the first carbon neutral continent? How will this Deal, finally setting in stone Europe’s recognition of the climate emergency, produce a “just and socially fair” transition, one which will supposedly orient all of European policy? How will the influence of industrial lobbies in Brussels be held in check? As for the member states, whose attitudes towards climate change are hardly homogeneous — can they conform, unflinchingly, to the tendency now promoted by Brussels, which breaks with the earlier language of laissez-faire?

So many questions we need to ask ourselves, while acknowledging the radical paradigm shift the Deal represents, of which no-one has managed to grasp all the consequences. After the green wave in the last European elections, with particularly strong support from young Europeans, let’s bet on this proposal proving a genuine turning point, marking the beginning of a new era, and let’s make sure it doesn’t just remain on paper.

We thank our readers for all of their support and wish them an excellent 2020, under the banner of safeguarding the planet, a commitment we pledge ourselves to as a media outlet. This transition will never happen without a powerful mobilisation of citizens, a European public opinion which comes through loud and clear, and which we’re helping to forge.

In the coming weeks, in order to get closer to the concerns of Europeans, we’re going to make it possible for our community to become more involved in VoxEurop. Other surprises will be revealed over the course of the year.

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Texas shooting: Two people killed by armed gunman at church near Forth Worth | World | News

One person died at the scene of the shooting and one en route to the hospital, the Dallas Morning News said, citing a spokeswoman for local emergency services. Authorities were rushing to the scene at White Settlement, a suburb northwest of Fort Worth, where the West Freeway Church of Christ is located, local media said. The Fort Worth Fire Department issued an “active threat” assignment at around 11.30am (17.30pm GMT) local time and was assisting operations at the scene, according to reports.

A witness told a local CBS affiliate that a man armed with a shotgun walked up to a server during communion and opened fire, before being shot by a person attending the service.

“You feel like your life is flashing before you.

“I was so worried about my little one,” witness Isabel Arreola told the network.

Authorities believe the attacker was among the three people shot but it was not known whether he had been killed or injured, CBS 11 reported.

Mike Drivdahl, spokesman for the Fort Worth Fire Department, said the shootings took place at the West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, about 10 miles west of Fort Worth.

He said he had no information on the motive for the attack.

MedStar Mobile Healthcare spokeswoman Macara Trusty said one person died at the scene of the shooting and one person died en route to a hospital.

She said all the victims are male and Mr Drivdahl said that one of those shot was the gunman.

It was not immediately clear whether he was killed.

A witness told CBS11 News the gunman walked up to a server during Communion with a shotgun and began firing until another church member shot the suspect.

“It was the most scariest thing,” Isabel Arreola told the TV station.

“You feel like your life is flashing before you.

“I was so worried about my little one.”

Governor Greg Abbott issued a statement of condemnation for the “evil act of violence” at a “sacred” place of worship.

“I am grateful for the church members who acted quickly to take down the shooter and help prevent further loss of life,” Mr Abbott said.

“I ask all Texans to join us in praying for the White Settlement community and for all those affected by this horrible tragedy.”

White settlement is a city of about 17,000 people in Tarrant County.

Mr Drivdahl said his fire department was assisting city and county authorities in the investigation.

Bomb sniffing dogs were on the scene as a precaution, Mr Drivdahl said.

He added that he did not know how many people were attending the service when the shooting started.

“It’s a very tragic day whenever anyone in our community suffers,” Mr Drivdahl said.

“It not only affects people who were here today, it affects first responders as well.”

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Ursula von der Leyen outlines how Brexit will now move forward | World | News

The President of the European Commission said the EU want their relationship with Britain to be “as close as possible” and said they were aiming for a “zero tariff, zero quota, zero dumping” arrangement”. She revealed that the European Council has again tasked the European Commission to be the European Union’s negotiator with Britain. Ursula von der Leyen also declared the European Union will be prepared from February 1 to “go to work” regarding the Brexit process. 

She said: “Congratulations to Boris Johnson on his victory.

“Now we expect the ratification of the Withdrawal Agreement to be ended by January.

“We are ready to move to the next phase of our relationship.

“We want our future relationship to be as close as possible.

READ MORE: Sturgeon in DIRECT warning to Boris: ‘ENOUGH is enough’

“The European Council today has tasked us the European Commission to remain the Unions negotiator for the next phase of the talks.

“The time frame is going to be very challenging, we are going to have to work as soon as possible.

“We will be ready to get the most out of the short period available but for me it is important to say that in this moment yes will become a third country.

“At the very end we will have an unprecedented partnership.”

Mrs Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert this morning tweeted: “Congratulations, Boris Johnson, on your resounding victory.

“I look forward to our further cooperation for the friendship and close partnership of our countries.”

The backing from Mrs Merkel echoed an almost complete backing for Mr Johnson across the EU.

Both EU President Charles Michel and Luxembourg leader Xavier Bettel congratulated the Prime Minister on his re-election.

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Saudi Aramco: The world has its first $2 trillion company

The stock gained 10% for a second consecutive day, reaching 38.70 riyals ($10.32) per share before giving up some of its gains.

Saudi Aramco has gained roughly $300 billion in value since its shares debuted on the Riyadh stock exchange on Monday in the biggest initial public offering on record. It’s by far the most valuable company in the world, dwarfing runner up Apple, which is worth around $1.2 trillion.

The vast majority of buyers for the stock are in Saudi Arabia. Samba Capital, which managed the IPO, said Tuesday that 97% of retail investors who received shares were from the country. And more than 75% of shares sold to institutional investors went to Saudi companies, funds and government institutions.

The $2 trillion valuation was a priority for the crown prince ever since he first touted the partial privatization in 2016, but many analysts considered the figure a stretch despite Aramco’s monopoly on oil production in Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest exporter of crude.

Analysts at Bernstein Research said Thursday that the $2 trillion valuation was “too much, too soon” given weak expected earnings growth and little upside for global oil prices. The company looks expensive, they said, compared to peers such as Exxon (XOM) and Royal Dutch Shell (RDSA).

“Aramco should trade at a discount rather than premium to international oil majors,” the analysts said. More than 98% of the company is still owned by the kingdom, they noted, suggesting that investors should be concerned about corporate governance. Bernstein reckons the company is worth as little as $1.4 trillion.

“Aramco could trade in a league of its own for some time, but the stock market is a weighing machine in the long term and the laws of economic gravity will eventually apply,” said the Bernstein analysts. They recommended that investors sell Aramco shares now.

The long road to an IPO

International skepticism over the valuation, combined with low oil prices, the climate crisis and geopolitical risk, forced Saudi Arabia to scale back its initial ambitions for the flotation.

The IPO was supposed to usher in a new era of economic liberalization and foreign investment in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi government discussed floating 5% of the company in 2018 in a deal that would raise as much as $100 billion. It was looking at international markets such as New York or London, as well as Riyadh.

 OPEC's plan to boost oil prices may not work

But the deal was hampered by concerns about the valuation and potential legal complications in the United States. It was shelved after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a Saudi consulate in Turkey sent a chill through business ties with the kingdom.

Yet the listing was revived earlier this year, and Aramco moved ahead despite receiving muted interest from international investors. Aramco ultimately raised $25.6 billion by selling 1.5% of the company at a valuation of $1.7 trillion.

Gianna Bern, an energy expert who teaches at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, said the local offering was able to attract a “friendly audience” of Saudi nationals. International investors will watch how the company handles disclosure and regulatory requirements before considering whether to buy into a potential future international listing.

“The real test will be a global offering, in another jurisdiction, such as London or Asia with more stringent regulatory requirements,” said Bern, who is also the founding principal of energy consultancy Brookshire Advisory and Research.

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Russian TV axes show starring Ukraine’s leader after Putin joke | World news

A Russian television channel has abruptly cancelled a sitcom starring Ukraine’s president after an allusion to a crude joke about Vladimir Putin was aired in Russia’s far east.

The political satire Servant of the People served as a platform for the former comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy to gain popularity and eventually win the Ukrainian presidency, in a vote largely driven by anger at the country’s previous leaders.

But with sharp jokes directed against Putin, many wondered how long the political satire would last on Russia’s carefully-controlled airwaves.

The answer was less than one night.

After quickly editing out a joke made at Putin’s expense in the season’s premiere, the television channel TNT subsequently cancelled its broadcast of later airings of the 23-episode season, replacing them with sitcoms that were less likely to rile the Kremlin.

TNT did not immediately reply to requests from the Guardian for comment. It told Vedomosti, the Russian business newspaper, that it had never planned to air the whole season, and that the broadcast was a “marketing ploy” for its online streaming service. The episode is still available there.

Servant of the People follows the fictionalised Zelenskiy’s unlikely rise from high school teacher to Ukraine’s president after his rant against corruption goes viral.

In the season’s premiere Zelenskiy, playing the role of Ukraine’s new president, is selecting a new timepiece to match those worn by other leaders.

Putin, he is told, wears a Hublot.

“Putin’s a Hublot?” Zelenskiy responds.

The word Hublot resembles another that translates, less crudely, to the word “dick” in Russian’s swearing sub-language known as Mat. The phrase “Putin’s a dick”, using the swearword, became a popular slogan in Ukraine after the outbreak of the conflict in south-east Ukraine, and could be heard at anti-Putin rallies and seen in graffiti dabbed on walls across Ukraine.

It is not clear whether that joke was enough to cause the television show’s cancellation, as the series features a number of jokes about Russia and Putin. But in broadcasts of Servant of the People broadcast later on Wednesday night, including those shown in Moscow, the joke had been edited out. The edit was first reported by the BBC’s Russian service.

Lentach, a Russian website that combines news and humour, put together a simple map showing which parts of Russia had and had not heard “Putin is a Hublot”.

TNT, a Russian television station that focuses on sitcoms and comedy shows, announced it would debut the show just days after Zelenskiy and Putin met for high-stakes talks in Paris on the conflict in east Ukraine. It was the first meeting between the two leaders.

The show was advertised to Russian viewers as a counterpoint to Zelenskiy’s real presidency.

“For viewers, the television series became a utopia with no real relation to the Ukraine of Zelenskiy,” the television station wrote in a release.

Television is a carefully-controlled medium in Russia, and shows that have made fun of Putin have quickly been booted off air. The most famous was in 2002 when the show Puppets, which featured a fake version of Putin and was inspired by the show Spitting Image, was abruptly cancelled.

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At UN Climate Summit, Greta Thunberg Lifts Up Science, Blasts World Leaders

MADRID ― At a high-level event Wednesday at the United Nations climate summit, Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg slammed world leaders for “misleading” the public with insufficient emission-reduction pledges and dove into the growing science that shows governments must act quickly to prevent catastrophic warming. 

Thunberg kicked off her speech at the 25th Conference of the Parties, or COP25, by telling world leaders that she wouldn’t have any personal or emotional headline-grabbing one-liners, like when she told world leaders she wanted them to panic.  

“I will not do that, because then those phrases are all that people focus on,” she said. “They don’t remember the facts, the very reason why I say those things in the first place. We no longer have time to leave out the science.” 

Thunberg highlighted numbers from last year’s sobering report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the leading United Nations consortium of researchers studying human-caused temperature rise. It found that to have a 67% chance of keeping the global temperature from exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels ― the aspirational goal of the Paris climate agreement ― the world can only emit 570 gigatons of carbon dioxide. Studies show we are on track to blow past that carbon budget within a decade, and that meeting the 1.5-degree target requires cutting global emissions 7.6% every year from 2020 to 2030. 

“How do you react to these numbers without feeling at least some level of panic?” Thunberg asked a room full of delegates and others gathered at the summit. “How do you respond to the fact that basically nothing is being done about this without feeling the slightest bit of anger?”


Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg gives a speech during a high-level event on climate emergency Wednesday during the U.N. climate change conference in Madrid.

Thunberg noted that 100 companies are responsible for 71% of greenhouse gas emissions, and that since the Paris agreement, global banks have invested $1.9 trillion in fossil fuels. She accused political leaders from rich countries of “misleading” people about the crisis and “finding clever ways around having to take real action,” including outsourcing emissions overseas to poorer countries and refusing to compensate vulnerable nations for climate-related damages.

The U.N. climate talks, she said, “have turned into some kind of opportunity for countries to negotiate loopholes and to avoid raising their ambition.” 

She continued:

The biggest danger is not inaction. The real danger is when politicians and CEOs are making it look like real action is happening, when in fact almost nothing is being done, apart from clever accounting and creative PR.

In just three weeks, we will enter a new decade ― a decade that will define our future. Right now we are desperate for any sign of hope. Well I’m telling you there is hope, I’ve seen it. But it does not come for the governments or corporations. It comes from the people. 

Wednesday’s “High-Level Event on Climate Emergency” also included speeches from Jennifer Morgan, the executive director of Greenpeace International, and Hilda Flavia Nakabuye, a youth climate activist from Uganda. As the panel discussion came to an end, dozens of young activists from the Fridays for Future movement stormed the stage, where they chanted and staged a sit-in to demand immediate action. 

“We need leadership on climate action, not talks,” an emotional Nakabuye said. “You’ve been negotiating for the last 25 years, even before I was born. Do you want the whole of Africa to first perish before you start acting?”

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World Human Rights Day: Chileans mark day with protests | News

Antofagasta, Chile – The military loaded people onto boats and some were never seen again. It happened 46 years ago, but it is something Carlos Martinez will never forget.

“Everyone saw what was happening,” he told Al Jazeera.

A food vendor in his 60s, Martinez now lives in Antofagasta, in northern Chile. But in 1973, he lived 1,360km (845 miles) south in Valparaiso. General Augusto Pinochet seized power in a military coup that year, and the dictatorship appropriated boats in the Valparaiso harbour to use as detention and torture centre for political prisoners.

“People from all over were tortured,” said Martinez. “Others were weighted and dumped into the sea.”


Thousands of Chileans were executed, forcibly disappeared, tortured and imprisoned for political reasons during the 17-year dictatorship. Martinez sees echoes of the past in current President Sebastian Pinera.

“He continues the repressive stance of the dictatorship,” he said.

Chile Human Rights

Relatives of people detained and forcibly disappeared during the 1973-1990 dictatorship protest every week for truth and justice [Sandra Cuffe/Al Jazeera] 

Pinochet died at age 91 under house arrest 13 years ago on December 10, International Human Rights Day. The day commemorates the United Nations adoption in 1948 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, but many Chileans are marking the day this year not with celebrations but with protests.

Demonstrations against structural inequality are in their eighth week in Chile, and crackdowns by security forces continue to draw criticism.

Pinera gave a speech for Human Rights Day, saying “over the past 52 days, we have been made aware of many cases and reports of human rights abuses, and each and every one hurts us.”

Secondary student protests in October sparked nationwide protests for systemic change, and political and economic measures announced by the government have so far failed to quell the movement. Following an initial nine-day state of emergency that entailed military deployment, police have continued to crack down on daily protest actions around the country.

Pinera faces allegations of rights abuses

At least 24 people have been killed during the crisis, including five by military and police forces.

The National Human Rights Institute, an autonomous state body, has documented 192 cases of sexual violence by authorities and 405 cases of torture or other cruel treatment. The institute has also visited 3,449 people hospitalised for injuries, including 352 eye injuries, most of them caused by projectiles fired by police.

In his speech Tuesday, Pinera recognised the hard work in recent weeks by the 10-year-old National Human Rights Institute. It has facilitated greater awareness and increased capacity to identify and if necessary also punish all human rights violations, he said.

“Chile has a beautiful, noble and recognised tradition with regard to the protection of human rights,” said Pinera, pledging commitment to truth, justice, and assistance for victims.

But Pinera himself could face consequences for alleged human rights violations during the continuing crisis. Legislators this week are deliberating constitutional accusations against the president and Andres Chadwick, Minister of the Interior and Security at the outset of the crisis.

Chile human rights

At a march in Antofagasta in northern Chile, a protester carries a sign that reads: ‘Bullets will not silence us. Chile woke up’ [Sandra Cuffe/Al Jazeera] 

The Senate is scheduled to vote on Wednesday on the accusation against Chadwick, after it passed a vote by legislators of the lower house of Chile’s bicameral congress. Chadwick was removed in a cabinet shuffle, but would be barred from holding any public office for five years if the Senate votes against him.

On Thursday, legislators from the lower house will debate and potentially vote on the constitutional accusation against Pinera. In the unlikely event the accusation were to pass both in the Chamber of Deputies and Senate, Pinera would be immediately removed from office and barred from holding any other for five years.

International human rights NGOs Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch both published reports last month condemning police and military repression of protests. The government strongly repudiated allegations of intentional harm and indiscriminate attacks.

A team from the Office of the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights spent three weeks in Chile last month, documenting the situation. Their report is almost set to be released, high commissioner Michelle Bachelet said Monday. Bachelet served two nonconsecutive terms as president of Chile, both times followed by Pinera.

“We are the United Nations. We are not an NGO. It is just about to be presented to the government of Chile so that it can be known by everyone,” she said when confronted about the report by Chileans attending the COP25 climate conference in Madrid.

Chile human rights

A demonstrator holds false eyes during a protest against Chile’s government, in Santiago, Chile [Pablo Sanhueza/Reuters] 

International human rights bodies have left the country, but alleged human rights violations continue. In a presentation to the Senate human rights commission Monday, the National Doctors Association of Chile reported multiple cases of severe burns from unknown chemical agents added by police to water cannon used on protesters.

In spite of the abuses, protests continue. Martinez supports them, and he is far from alone. More than two-thirds of Chileans think protests should continue, according to a recent poll by a trusted marketing and polling company.

“The new generations have woken up,” said Martinez. “The atomic bomb of youth has been exposed.”

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France braces for further strikes over pension changes | World news

French unions are staging a second round of mass street demonstrations as the country entered its sixth day of a nationwide strike and transport standstill over proposed plans to change the pensions system.

The government’s standoff with unions continued as the prime minister, Édouard Philippe, said he would stand firm and announce details of the pension changes on Wednesday, with speculation over possible concessions on the start date in order to diffuse growing tensions on the streets.

The government was watching Tuesday’s turnout after being caught off-guard by the scale of last week’s street protests when at least 800,000 people took part in one of the biggest demonstrations of trade union strength in a decade.

Crucially, the number of protesters has been particularly high in small provincial towns, echoing the mood of the gilets jaunes anti-government protests earlier this year. People are angry not only with pensions but low salaries, worsening prospects, the state of public services and what one demonstrator called “the feeling of being forgotten”.

Commuters wait on a platform at the Gare du Nord RER station on Tuesday morning

Commuters wait on a platform at the Gare du Nord RER station on Tuesday morning. Photograph: Eric Gaillard/Reuters

One local MP for president Emmanuel Macron’s party said it would be hard to tackle a protest movement that spread from pensions to several different grievances at once.

Across the country, transport turmoil continued on Tuesday with trains at a virtual halt, some flights grounded, 10 lines of the Paris metro closed and more than 300km of traffic jams on roads around Paris by 7am. Teachers, hospital staff, fire officers, air-traffic controllers and other public sector workers were expected to walk out alongside train drivers and transport workers.

In the greater Paris area, where more than 9 million people depend on an already overburdened public transport system each day, there were dangerous crushes on packed platforms as crowds of commuters tried to push on to the very few banlieue trains running at rush-hour.

Commuters wait at Gare de l’Est train station in Paris during a strike by SNCF workers and the Paris transport network RATP as part of a second day of nationwide strikes.

Commuters wait at Gare de l’Est train station in Paris during a strike by SNCF workers and the Paris transport network RATP. Photograph: Christian Hartmann/Reuters

Macron, the pro-business president who has promised to deliver the biggest “transformation” of the French social model and welfare system since the postwar era, regards his pension reforms as a key test.

He has staked his political credibility on refusing to buckle in the face of street protests, accusing previous presidents of lacking the resolve to stand strong. With Macron potentially aiming to run for a second term in office the 2022 presidential election, backing down would be to risk losing his support-base. But demonstrators said they feared France’s social safety net was being unpicked.

Union members and employees of the Paris transport network RATP block a bus depot in Les-Pavillons-sous-Bois near Paris

Union members and employees of the Paris transport network RATP block a bus depot in Les-Pavillons-sous-Bois near Paris. Photograph: Lucien Libert/Reuters

The government argues that unifying the French pensions system – and getting rid of the 42 “special” regimes for sectors ranging from rail and energy workers to lawyers and Paris Opera staff – is crucial to keep the system financially viable as the French population ages. But unions say the changes are an attack on fundamental worker rights, and fear people will have to work longer for smaller pensions.

Police ordered all shops to close on the route of the demonstration in southern Paris. Other big marches were planned in cities including Grenoble, Lyon and Rouen.

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New Zealand volcano video: Horrific footage shows moment of eruption on White Island | World | News

A New Zealand volcano on White Island, off the northern coast of the Northern Island, erupted on Monday morning. At least 100 people are believed to have been in the area when the eruption took place and officials confirmed at least one person died when the country’s most active cone volcano spewed a billowing cloud of ashes into the sky. A horrific video shared online after the eruption appears to have captured a group of people standing on a rock inside the crater as the first signs of the eruption appears under the guise of a cloud of smoke. 

The video, which appears to have been filmed from a boat circumnavigating White Island, also captured the aftermath of the eruption, showing a huge black cloud entirely engulfing the island. 

New Zealand police have advised people the volcanic ash could pose a major health threat to the public.

Roads have been closed around the town of Whakatāne, the closest town to White Island, as the local hospital has been turned into an emergency operation centre to help authorities cope with the emergency.

New Zeland Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed during a press conference around 100 people were believed to be on White Island when the volcano erupted.

Ms Ardern said: “Police were alerted at 2.17pm.

“At this stage, and please do keep in mind this is an evolving situation, we believe around 100 people were on or around the island at the time and some of those are at this stage unaccounted for.

“I want to share this is evolving at this stage, at this stage, it does appear to be a very significant issue, particularly the scale of those affected.”

The White Island stratovolcano last erupted in 2016 according to New Zealand science agency GeoNat, which recorded a “short-lived” burst that caused no harm as it happened overnight.

Australian geologist Professor Richard Arculus from the Australian National university suggested the volcano on White Island had been “showing signs of unrest for the past few weeks.”

Speaking to The Guardian, Prof Arculus added: “The eruption this afternoon was a short-lived explosive event.

“In addition to gases, fragmented rock particles (ash) rose approximately 4,000m above the vent.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison offered his country’s support to neighbouring New Zealand at this time of emergency.

Writing on Twitter, Mr Morrison said: “A terrible tragedy is unfolding in NZ after the volcano eruption on Whakaari/White Island. Australians have been caught up in this terrible event and we are working to determine their wellbeing.

“I have been in touch with @jacindaardern to offer our full support with whatever they need and our authorities are working closely together. I will be staying in direct contact as events continue to unfold.

“We will provide updates once they are confirmed and are available.”

White Island, also known as Whakaari, is located in the Bay of Plenty, approximately 30 miles from the east coast of the North Island of New Zealand.

The island is roughly circular, about 1.2 miles in diameter, and rises to a height of 1,053 ft above sea level. White Island covers an area of approximately 800 acres.

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