Steaming, smoking, belching, bubbling and today – erupting.

New Zealand’s rowdiest volcano just had one of its biggest episodes in recent times, as White Island blew. There are reports up to 20 people have been injured.

Police say 50 people are believed to have been on or near around Whakaari/White Island when it erupted, “a number” of whom are still unaccounted for.

Police are working with the National Emergency Management Agency to co-ordinate a search and rescue operation following the eruption.

“While it was initially believed there were approximately 100 people on or near the island at the time of the eruption, we now believe there were fewer than 50,” police said in a statement. “Some of those people have been transported to shore, however a number believed to be on the island are currently unaccounted for.”

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern addressed the eruption earlier at her weekly post-Cabinet meeting in Wellington.

“All our thoughts are with those affected at this stage,” Ardern said.

Emotional families of those affected are gathering at Whakatane wharf. People covered in ash can be seen arriving for treatment after being transported from rescue helicopters.

According to GNS Science, the 2.11pm eruption fired a plume of ash 3.6km above the vent.

The island’s crater floor was littered with ash, which continued to fall on the island – but only a minor amount of the material was expected to reach the East Cape over the next few hours.

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