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Whakaari/ White Island Volcano Alert Level Raised After Another 'Minor' Eruption

Boaties are being urged to avoid the waters around Whakaari White Island in Bay of Plenty after another minor volcanic eruption on Saturday morning.

GNS Science has again raised the volcanic alert level on the island to level three out of five, following a minor eruption just after 8am.

It has also raised the aviation colour code to orange, which indicates a volcano is showing heightened unrest with increased likelihood of eruption, or an eruption is underway with no or only minor ash emissions.

Duty volcanologist Yannik Behr said Saturday morning's minor eruption happened about 8.10am.

"Footage from our Whakatāne camera indicates that this morning's activity is very similar in size to what was observed yesterday.

"We noticed a vigourous steam-gas plume above the island at 8.10am NZST. As we have no sensors on the island we are relying on webcams and satellite imagery to assess the situation.

"Based on our limited information there were no clear indications of volcanic ash in the plume. If there were, it would be unlikely to reach the mainland under current wind conditions."

Another minor eruption happened on Friday morning, when witnesses described smoke rising from the island.

GNS raised the island's volcanic alert level to three following that explosion.

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On Friday, a resident near the island told RNZ there was a "good eruption going on" with "big plumes of smoke and ash".

By evening, however, there had been no other eruptions and the island's activity level was lowered.

GNS Science said the volcanic activity over the past two days indicated that Whakaari may be entering into an "eruptive episode", when steam and gas - which may contain small amounts of volcanic ash - are emitted.

"There are no clear signs that eruptions will become much more energetic, but this could occur with little to no warning. Should future eruptions become larger, producing volcanic ash, and should the wind direction change substantially, it is possible that ash could be dispersed onshore."

In 2019, a deadly eruption of the volcano killed 22 people and injured 25 others.

The steam-gas plume above the island had reverted to more normal levels, and GNS Science volcanologists were continuing to monitor the volcano, Behr said.

Bay of Plenty Emergency Management said the harbourmaster had advised all vessels to avoid the area around the island.

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