One confirmed dead following White Island eruption

First responders stepping onto White Island this afternoon. Photo: Michael Schade/Twitter.

One person is confirmed to have been killed following an eruption on White Island.

Police are continuing to work with the National Emergency Management Agency to coordinate a search and rescue operation following a volcanic eruption at White Island this afternoon.

The eruption occurred about 2.11pm.

'While it was initially believed there were about 100 people on or near the island at the time of the eruption, we now believe there were fewer than 50," says a police spokesperson.

"There remain a number of people on the island who are unaccounted for.

"Both New Zealanders and overseas tourists are believed to be involved.

"At this stage, we can confirm there has been one fatality, and based on the information we have it is likely there are others.

"A number of injured people have been transported to Whakatane Hospital and Middlemore Hospital."

Police are leading the search and rescue operation and we are working at pace to confirm the numbers of those involved.

"The island is currently covered in ash and we are taking expert advice with regards to the conditions to determine when we can safety access the island. 

"We will provide more details as soon as we are in a position to do so."

People in the area should continue to go to the Civil Defence and Emergency Management website for any safety advice: www.civildefence.govt.nz/

GNS Science duty volcanologist Geoff Kilgour says monitoring data shows that there was a short-lived eruption that generated an ash plume to ~12,000ft above the vent at 2.11pm.

"Ash has covered the main crater floor as seen in our webcam images.

"Ash fall appears to be confined to the island and we do not expect more than a minor amount of ash to reach East Cape in the coming hours.

"Our monitoring equipment is still operating, and we have seen a steady decline in activity since the eruption.

"There remains significant uncertainty as to future changes but currently, there are no signs of escalation."

The Volcanic Alert Level has decreased to Level 3.

The Aviation Colour Code remains at Orange.

GNS Science and the National Geohazards Monitoring Centre continues to closely monitor Whakaari/White Island for further signs of activity. Volcanic Alert Level 3 indicates a minor local eruption is in progress.

Enquiries related to the emergency response should be directed to National Emergency Management Authority (NEMA – www.civildefence.govt.nz)

More information will be made available within the next 24 hours.

Why were people allowed on White Island?

Less than a week ago, GeoNet said observations indicated the volcano may have been entering a period when eruptive activity was higher than normal.
So why were tourists still allowed on the island?
GeoNet vulcanologist Brad Scott said it was up to tour operators to monitor the situation and decide whether to continue operating.
An estimated 10,000 people visit the site each year, which is New Zealand's most active volcano. 
White Island Tours publishes the volcanic alert level on its website and says tours "operate through varying alert levels".
It says tours follow a "comprehensive safety plan" which determines activities on the island at the various alert levels. 
People are only allowed to land on White Island as part of a tour. 
 
SunLive is live at the scene and will continue to provide updates where possible.




2 Comments

No regulation

Posted on 10-12-2019 06:06 | By Slim Shady

So we allow the operators, who make the money, to decide whether it is safe to take tourists there? Seems a conflict of interest to me.

Should not

Posted on 09-12-2019 19:45 | By Merlin

Should not be up to tour operators to determine to go as they would be looking at dollars.It is up to the Authorities to assess the safety.The crater lake levels have been rising from reports. ? dollars before safety?

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