December 9, 2019 / 11:07 AM / a month ago

Tourist tweets escape from New Zealand's White Island volcano

(Reuters) - Tourist Michael Schade stood at the crater of New Zealand’s White Island volcano minutes before it erupted on Monday and shared his terrifying experience in a series of messages and videos posted on social media.

People on a boat react as smoke billows from the volcanic eruption of Whakaari, also known as White Island, New Zealand December 9, 2019 in this picture grab obtained from a social media video. INSTAGRAM @ALLESSANDROKAUFFMANN/via REUTERS

“My God, White Island volcano in New Zealand erupted today for first time since 2001. My family and I had gotten off it 20 minutes before, were waiting at our boat about to leave when we saw it,” he tweeted.

“Boat ride home tending to people our boat rescued was indescribable.”

Several people were killed and injured and others were reported missing when the volcano erupted apparently without warning off the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island.

In video Schade posted on Twitter as he sped away from the island in a boat, a huge plume of white ash soars into the sky as a group of frightened tourists huddle close to the shore.

A helicopter parked nearby on the island looks crumpled and covered in ash.

“Those are some of the people (our) boat picked up. Praying for them and their recovery. Woman my mom tended to was in critical condition but seemed strong by the end,” Schade tweeted to his 2,570 followers.

“The helicopters on the island looked destroyed.”

Schade describes himself in his Twitter handle as someone who likes “helping people, photography, reading, gym, travelling, and learning new things”. He says he lives in San Francisco.

“This is so hard to believe. Our whole tour group were literally standing at the edge of the main crater not 30 minutes before,” he tweeted.

“My thoughts (are) with the families of those currently unaccounted for, the people recovering now, and especially the rescue workers.”

He also praised tour operators who helped tend to people in the minutes after the eruption.

“Endless gratitude to that crew for stepping up as first responders,” he wrote.

Reporting by Stephen Coates; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Neil Fullick

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