An eruption has occurred on Whakaari / White Island in the Eastern Bay of Plenty, sending a huge plume of smoke and ash into the sky. GNS Science says the eruption occurred at 2.10 p.m.

Up to 20 people injured, 5 helicopters dispatched (Reported LIVE by RNZ as of 03:52 p.m.)

St John Ambulance says up to 20 people are believed to have been injured in this afternoon's eruption.

A spokesperson said a mobile triage unit was on its way to the island.

She confirmed they are working with the Coastguard and district health boards on a coordinated response.

She said one ambulance crew was on the way to the island from Whakatane. Five helicopters have been dispatched.

Police and the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management are expected to hold a joint press conference about 5.30 p.m.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says at this stage, "we believe 100 people were on, or around the island".

"Some are "unaccounted for" 

PM added that the government cannot confirm yet if there have been any fatalities.

Photo by: Claire McKenna- @mckenna_claire (on Twitter)

- NZ Civil Defence has warned the immediate vicinity is dangerous

- People living in or near the area have been warned to beware ashfall, closing all windows and doors and wear a dust mask or handkerchief

- People have been warned NOT to wear contact lenses if they are in the area as ash can get underneath the lens

- The public has been urged to avoid Whakatane Heads and Muriwai Drive

Message from the Ministry of Health - Manatu Hauora: Those near Whakaari White Island should follow @NZcivildefence for updates and refer to our advice on protecting yourself, your family and your property from volcanic ash.

Keeping safe from volcanic ash: Volcanic ash can cause eye, skin and breathing problems, as well as property damage, both near to the eruption and hundreds of kilometres away. 

The volcanic activity alert levels have been raised since 18 November: The volcanic alert on Whakaaro - White Island in the Eastern Bay of Plenty - has been raised due to increased activity. The alert level is now at two, which means moderate to heightened volcanic unrest. GNS volcanologist Michael Rosenburg said over the past few weeks there had been an increase of sulphur gas from deep inside the volcano and an increase in tremors.

A brief history on . She is estimated to be between 150,000 and 200,000 years old and sits on the Northern part of the Taupo Volcanic Zone which runs down through the centre of the North Island and takes in Moutohora, Mt Putauaki, Mt Tarawera, and Tongariro.

SEE LIVE UPDATES from the National Emergency Management Agency: https://twitter.com/NZcivildefence

& Here: https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/405141/live-eruption-at-whakaari-white-island

This LIVE news update was originally published on Radio New Zealand and is being re-published by The Indian Weekender in the agreement of content partnership between Radio New Zealand and The Indian Weekender.