White Island volcano: Sixth person dies in hospital amid fears death toll could rise to 14

A sixth person has died after a volcanic island erupted in New Zealand, amid fears the final death toll could reach 14 including eight people who are still missing. 

Police said the sixth victim was being treated in hospital before dying of their injuries late Tuesday. Five people had earlier been confirmed killed in the disaster, which struck White Island at 2.11pm on Monday.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said ‘up to three’ of the dead are Australians, while Malaysia has confirmed one of its citizens is among the dead. None of them have been identified. The only fatality to be named is New Zealand tour guide Hayden Marshall-Inman.

Investigators say all eight missing are likely to be dead, but recovering their bodies could take some time amid fears of another eruption and toxic gasses shrouding the island.

Thirty people are still being treated in hospital – some with 90 per cent burns – and three have been treated and released. Pete Watson, New Zealand’s chief medic, said it likely that ‘not all’ of the wounded will survive. 

Police have announced a probe ‘into the circumstances of the deaths and injuries’ on behalf of the coroner, but backtracked on an earlier announcement of a criminal investigation. 

In total 47 tourists were on White Island when it erupted, among them: 24 Australians, nine Americans, five New Zealanders, four Germans, two Britons, two Chinese and one Malaysian. 

Julie Richards, 47, and her daughter Jessica, 20, (pictured) from Brisbane, were on the cruise and are among the missing. Ms Richards' sister Barbara Whitehead told the ABC she has heard nothing and is 'overwhelmed'

Julie Richards, 47, and her daughter Jessica, 20, (pictured) from Brisbane, were on the cruise and are among the missing. Ms Richards' sister Barbara Whitehead told the ABC she has heard nothing and is 'overwhelmed'

Julie Richards, 47, and her daughter Jessica, 20, (pictured) from Brisbane, were on the cruise and are among the missing. Ms Richards’ sister Barbara Whitehead told the ABC she has heard nothing and is ‘overwhelmed’

Missing: Schoolgirl Zoe Hosking

Missing: Schoolgirl Zoe Hosking

Lawyer Gavin Dallow, 53, his wife Lisa Hosking, 48, are pictured on their wedding day

Lawyer Gavin Dallow, 53, his wife Lisa Hosking, 48, are pictured on their wedding day

Lawyer Gavin Dallow, 53, his wife Lisa Hosking, 48, and her daughter Zoe Hosking, 15, from Adelaide, were all on a cruise holiday which included an optional walking tour of the volcano. Ms Hosking has been identified among the wounded in hospital, while her husband and daughter remain missing

Missing: Among those listed as missing is North Sydney family of four, parents Anthony, 51, and Kristine Langford (pictured) and their two teenage children (below). The missing list was compiled by concerned family members on the Red Cross website and is not official

Missing: Among those listed as missing is North Sydney family of four, parents Anthony, 51, and Kristine Langford (pictured) and their two teenage children (below). The missing list was compiled by concerned family members on the Red Cross website and is not official

Missing: Among those listed as missing is North Sydney family of four, parents Anthony, 51, and Kristine Langford (pictured) and their two teenage children (below). The missing list was compiled by concerned family members on the Red Cross website and is not official

Winona Langford, 17

Winona Langford, 17

Jesse Langford, 19

Jesse Langford, 19

Siblings Winona Langford, 17 (left), and Jesse Langford, 19, from Sydney, are believed to have been on holiday with their family. Relatives say they have not heard about their welfare

The Langford family pictured in Sydney about to set sail on the cruise, which was a celebration for Anthony's birthday

The Langford family pictured in Sydney about to set sail on the cruise, which was a celebration for Anthony's birthday

The Langford family pictured in Sydney about to set sail on the cruise, which was a celebration for Anthony’s birthday

Missing: Tour guide Tipene Maangi, 23, from New Zealand, is unaccounted for. His grandmother was desperately waiting for news this morning and said he loved his job showing visitors around the active volcano

Missing: Tour guide Tipene Maangi, 23, from New Zealand, is unaccounted for. His grandmother was desperately waiting for news this morning and said he loved his job showing visitors around the active volcano

Missing: Tour guide Tipene Maangi, 23, from New Zealand, is unaccounted for. His grandmother was desperately waiting for news this morning and said he loved his job showing visitors around the active volcano

Karla Mathews, 32, and Richard Elzer, 32, from New South Wales, in Australia, have been listed as missing

Karla Mathews, 32, and Richard Elzer, 32, from New South Wales, in Australia, have been listed as missing

Karla Mathews, 32, and Richard Elzer, 32, from New South Wales, in Australia, have been listed as missing

The British High Commissioner has said two UK citizens are among the wounded, while American newlyweds Matthew and Lauren Urey, 36 and 32, have also been confirmed among those hurt.

It is not clear why police backtracked on the criminal probe. Experts had earlier warned that tours of White Island, which is the tip of New Zealand’s most active cone volcano, was a ‘disaster waiting to happen’. A health and safety investigation has also been launched. 

Search teams have been dispatched to the island, in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty, but have not yet been able to set foot on the island amid warnings there is a 50 per cent chance of another eruption within the next 24 hours.

There are also fears that levels of toxic gasses in the atmosphere could prove fatal, and police want to test using drones before sending anyone ashore. However, high winds mean the drones have been unable to launch.

Deputy Commissioner John Tims said officers were working with webcam photos of the crater taken before the explosion to help locate bodies.

He added that identifying victims is a ‘complex matter’ due to the nature of their injuries, but promised that police are working ‘as quickly as possible’. 

Tourists aboard the Ovation of the Seas cruise liner, where at least half of the victims are thought to have been staying, say police have been carrying out DNA tests on items left in guests’ cabins to help identify the victims.

Matthew and Lauren Urey, 36 and 32, who were on their honeymoon at the time of the eruption, have been confirmed among the wounded. He is believed to have suffered burns to 80 per cent of his body, while she has 20 per cent burns

Matthew and Lauren Urey, 36 and 32, who were on their honeymoon at the time of the eruption, have been confirmed among the wounded. He is believed to have suffered burns to 80 per cent of his body, while she has 20 per cent burns

Matthew and Lauren Urey, 36 and 32, who were on their honeymoon at the time of the eruption, have been confirmed among the wounded. He is believed to have suffered burns to 80 per cent of his body, while she has 20 per cent burns

Jason Griffiths (pictured), 33, from Coffs Harbour in New South Wales, is in hospital in critical condition after the eruption

Jason Griffiths (pictured), 33, from Coffs Harbour in New South Wales, is in hospital in critical condition after the eruption

Jason Griffiths (pictured), 33, from Coffs Harbour in New South Wales, is in hospital in critical condition after the eruption

Jake Milbank, from New Zealand, was working as a tour guide on the island on Monday as he celebrated his birthday. He is now in hospital with burns to 80 per cent of his body

Jake Milbank, from New Zealand, was working as a tour guide on the island on Monday as he celebrated his birthday. He is now in hospital with burns to 80 per cent of his body

Jake Milbank, from New Zealand, was working as a tour guide on the island on Monday as he celebrated his birthday. He is now in hospital with burns to 80 per cent of his body

The first confirmed victim of the volcano disaster was named as New Zealand tour guide Hayden Marshall-Inman (pictured). His brother posted a tribute on Facebook saying he 'died doing what he loved'

The first confirmed victim of the volcano disaster was named as New Zealand tour guide Hayden Marshall-Inman (pictured). His brother posted a tribute on Facebook saying he 'died doing what he loved'

The first confirmed victim of the volcano disaster was named as New Zealand tour guide Hayden Marshall-Inman (pictured). His brother posted a tribute on Facebook saying he ‘died doing what he loved’

Some 47 tourists - from New Zealand and overseas - were on or around the crater, located off the coast of the North Island, at the time of the blast. Pictured: Smoke rises into the air after the explosion on Monday

Some 47 tourists - from New Zealand and overseas - were on or around the crater, located off the coast of the North Island, at the time of the blast. Pictured: Smoke rises into the air after the explosion on Monday

Some 47 tourists – from New Zealand and overseas – were on or around the crater, located off the coast of the North Island, at the time of the blast. Pictured: Smoke rises into the air after the explosion on Monday

Outlining the condition of the wounded, New Zealand’s chief medic Pete Watson said that 27 of the 31 in hospital had burns on 30 per cent or more of their bodies, including some who suffered inhalation burns to their lungs.

The injured are aged between 13 and 72, he said. There are eight being treated in Christchurch, eight in Waikato, five in Hutt, and four in Middlemore burn units with another four in Tauranga Hospital. 

Watson said Middlemore’s burns unit has received the equivalent of a years’ worth of work in one day. The sixth person who died was being treated at Middlemore before passing away.

He added that all burns units are now at capacity, and some Australian victims who are well enough to travel will soon be flown to be treated closer to their families.

Nationalities of victims 

On the island at the time of the eruption were two Britons, four Germans, 24 Australians, five Kiwis, two Chinese, one Malaysian and nine Americans.  

Three Australians are believed to be among the five confirmed dead, PM Scott Morrison said.

The injured are aged between 13 and 72, NZ officials said. 

New Zealand tour guide Hayden Marshall-Inman is the only dead person identified as at 3pm AEDT.

Two British women were treated in hospital, the High Commissioner said. 

Lawyer Gavin Dallow, 53, his wife Lisa Hosking, 48, and her 15-year-old daughter Zoe Hosking, from Adelaide, were on a cruise holiday which included an optional walking tour of the active volcano when it erupted. 

Family confirmed that Ms Hosking was among the wounded in hospital, but that her husband and daughter remain missing. 

Her brother David Francis has contacted her relatives in Adelaide with news that she is in hospital at Hamilton. 

Mr Dallow’s cousin Baxter Stone said he was deeply committed to his family and would be ‘missed beyond words’ if he is among the dead.

‘He was always up for an entertaining chat a deep love of sport that saw him umpire football and tennis at the highest levels,’ he said. 

‘I’m still hoping it’s all been a mistake sadly that seems less likely as the hours tick by.’ 

Meanwhile Briton Mark Rakos, from Darlington, said he was growing increasingly concerned for the safety of father Karl and stepmother Deborah, who have both been listed among the missing.

The 35-year-old said the pair are on a cruise around New Zealand but he had not heard from them since Sunday, despite repeated attempts to make contact. 

‘They’ve been on the cruise for about a week, it was going around New Zealand then on to Australia,’ he said.

‘They were going to Sydney and then back home on December 18. 

‘People have said it would take two days for the cruise ship to get up to the volcano area, so that’s what I’m hoping for, but I don’t know what his plans were.

‘I would have thought surely the cruise ship has WiFi. I thought he would have been able to answer by now.’

Tourists desperately scramble on to a boat to evacuate the island after the eruption, shortly after 2pm local time

Tourists desperately scramble on to a boat to evacuate the island after the eruption, shortly after 2pm local time

Tourists desperately scramble on to a boat to evacuate the island after the eruption, shortly after 2pm local time

People are seen grieving and comforting each other at the port in Whakatāne, New Zealand where survivors were brought on after the carnage on Monday

People are seen grieving and comforting each other at the port in Whakatāne, New Zealand where survivors were brought on after the carnage on Monday

People are seen grieving and comforting each other at the port in Whakatāne, New Zealand where survivors were brought on after the carnage on Monday

White Island tour guides (left in stripes) looked upset as they mourned with locals in Whakatāne, New Zealand

White Island tour guides (left in stripes) looked upset as they mourned with locals in Whakatāne, New Zealand

White Island tour guides (left in stripes) looked upset as they mourned with locals in Whakatāne, New Zealand 

Jason Griffiths, 33, from Coffs Harbour in on the NSW Mid-North Coast is in hospital in critical condition after the eruption. Mr Griffiths was travelling with Karla Mathews, 32, and Richard Elzer, 32, who are listed as missing. 

Nick and Marion London, from Engadine in Sydney’s south, were also being treated for burns in hospital.

There are also serious concerns for the Langford family of north Sydney with Anthony, 51, his wife Kristine and their children Jesse, 19, and Winona, 17, listed as missing on a website set up by the New Zealand Red Cross. 

Relatives said they had not heard about their welfare and were concerned for their safety. 

Lauren Urey, 32, and her husband Matthew Urey, 36, who had been visiting New Zealand from Richmond, Virginia, were also on Whakaari during the eruption.

Mother Barbara said she received a troubling message from her son-in-law Matthew, which said ‘there had been a volcano eruption and they were burned very bad.’ 

Lauren had been taken for surgery, suffering severe burns to at least 20 percent of her body, while Matthew was airlifted to a hospital in Christchurch to treat burns to 80 percent of his body.

Retrieving the eight bodies from the island will be a dangerous, painstaking, and time-consuming process that will take many days to complete.

Authorities said the bodies would be covered in ash and the extraction teams were not sure exactly what they would be faced with when they arrived.

Six of the bodies have been located by aerial reconnaissance and marked on a map but officials said they could not describe where on the island they were located.

The first step is to fly drones over the volcano and collect gases that will be analysed to assess the conditions, but this has been delayed by high winds.

‘We are doing everything we can to get back to that island, absolutely doing everything we can, that is my primary objective at the moment, because that’s what we need to do,’ Mr Tim said.

Devastation: A helicopter from Volcanic Air is left destroyed after the eruption. The crew made it safely to the mainland via boat

Survivors: A group of tourists could be seen near the sea on the island from the cockpit of a Westpac Rescue helicopter

Survivors: A group of tourists could be seen near the sea on the island from the cockpit of a Westpac Rescue helicopter

Survivors: A group of tourists could be seen near the sea on the island from the cockpit of a Westpac Rescue helicopter

2.00pm: Eleven minutes before the eruption, some of the tourists on White Island are seen walking on the rim of the crater

2.00pm: Eleven minutes before the eruption, some of the tourists on White Island are seen walking on the rim of the crater

2.00pm: Eleven minutes before the eruption, some of the tourists on White Island are seen walking on the rim of the crater 

2.10pm: The tour group is seen further along the path just a minute before the volcano erupted at 2.11pm with ash and steam

2.10pm: The tour group is seen further along the path just a minute before the volcano erupted at 2.11pm with ash and steam

2.10pm: The tour group is seen further along the path just a minute before the volcano erupted at 2.11pm with ash and steam

‘It’s important for the families and friends, and so we are determined, we will do everything we possibly can.’ 

Further complicating recovery efforts is the 50/50 probability of another eruption in the next 24 hours that would put anyone trying to retrieve the bodies at serious risk of meeting he same fate.

‘There is a high level of uncertainty associated with this estimate and we are working to reduce that uncertainty. We also estimate the least likely scenario is a larger eruption,’ GeoNet said.

‘There is an extremely low likelihood of any ash impact to the mainland, but people may smell gas, depending on the prevailing wind direction.’

A New Zealander who was on a boat tour around the island told how he pulled people from the sea after they desperately ran into the water to escape the searing heat of the eruption.

Geoff Hopkins, 50, told the New Zealand Herald: ‘I don’t think there was anyone that came off who wasn’t badly burnt. Their faces were massively burnt. Their clothes looked fine, but when you cut them off… I’ve never seen blisters like that.’

He said he was ordered to get below deck by the boat crew before they came back asking for medics because they couldn’t cope with the number of injured. He and daughter Lillani volunteered.

Lillani said she had only been trained as a basic first aider, but found herself tending to two critically ill patients – singing to one of them to stop him from screaming in pain. 

The Australians feared missing: Full Red Cross list  

Here is a list of Australians marked as missing on the Red Cross list as at 9.30am AEDT. Some may still be in hospital, some may be unaccounted for and some may be safe but not yet able to contact the Red Cross to notify of their status.

Gavin Brian Dallow, 35, Adelaide 

Zoe Hosking, 15, Adelaide

Maree Fish, 46, Brisbane 

Maureen Jones, 68, Bathurst NSW

Jason David Griffiths, 33, Coffs Harbour, NSW

Karla Michelle Mathews, 32, Coffs Habour, NSW

Richard Aaron Elzer, 32, Coffs Harbour

Robert Rogers, 78, Herberton, Queensland 

 Alison Harris, 52, Newcastle, NSW

Anthony Langford, 51, North Sydney 

 Jesse Langford, 18, North Sydney

Winona Langford, 17, North Sydney

Kristine Langford, age not given, Australia

Gary Woolley, age not given, Sydney

Jane Murray, 56, Sydney

Marion London, 56, Sydney 

Mathew Thomas, 31, Tamworth NSW 

Jessica Richards, 20, Australia

Julie Richards, 47, Australia

Martin Hollander, 48, Australia

Susan Maree Cole, no other details, Australia 

He said his boat pulled in 23 people and raced them back to the mainland, pouring water on their burns and covering them in blankets as they screamed in pain. He said five were in critical condition and may have been the five who died. 

Thirteen Australians are known to be in hospital with three believed to be dead and eight missing, Mr Morrison told reporters in Sydney on Tuesday morning. 

‘I fear there is worse news to come over the course of perhaps today or over the next few days. This is a terrible tragedy, a time of great innocence and joy interrupted by the horror of that eruption,’ he said.  

Ms Ardern said this morning that police and emergency services are focusing on recovering eight bodies, which would take the death toll to 13. 

Only one of the dead has been named so far – New Zealand tour guide Hayden Marshall-Inman. 

Tom Storey, a helicopter pilot from the nearby town of Whakatane and a friend of Hayden, said when he heard that the volcano had erupted he immediately rushed to the island to find his friend.

Mr Storey said he found Hayden ‘in a pretty bad way’ and said there was little he could do other than make him as comfortable as possible.

‘You never want to start a job and not finish it, so hopefully fingers crossed we can get out there as soon as we can and recover him and the rest,’ he told Stuff.co.nz.

Fellow tour guide Tipene Maangi, 24, is also missing. 

His grandmother was desperately waiting for news this morning and said he loved his job at the active volcano which attracts 10,000 tourists a year on guided visits where they have to wear mask and helmets.

Mr Morrison said 24 Australians – aged 17 to 72 – were on the island as part of a tour from the Ovation of the Seas cruise ship, which departed from Sydney on 4 December in a trip around New Zealand. 

ABC journalist Donna Field, who was on the cruise ship on holiday, said she saw the captain Henrik Loy trying to stay calm when he was told about the disaster. 

‘His voice was pretty shaky,’ she said. ‘He had two phones in his hands and was just pacing on the bridge. I can’t imagine what he was going through. Everyone just stood stock still and listened. They’re shaken up.’ 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern arrives at the Whakatane Fire station to meet with first responders and emergency services and civil defence in Whakatane, New Zealand

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern arrives at the Whakatane Fire station to meet with first responders and emergency services and civil defence in Whakatane, New Zealand

Ms Ardern hugs a member of staff from the Royal Caribbean Internationale cruise ship

Ms Ardern hugs a member of staff from the Royal Caribbean Internationale cruise ship

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern arrives at the Whakatane Fire station to meet with first responders and emergency services and civil defence in Whakatane, New Zealand

People are seen grieving and comforting one another on the Whakatane Wharf on Tuesday after the volcanic eruption

People are seen grieving and comforting one another on the Whakatane Wharf on Tuesday after the volcanic eruption

People are seen grieving and comforting one another on the Whakatane Wharf on Tuesday after the volcanic eruption

A White Island tour guide worker covers her mouth in shock on Tuesday after the volcanic eruption

A White Island tour guide worker covers her mouth in shock on Tuesday after the volcanic eruption

Locals are seen mourning at the warf where survivors arrived

Locals are seen mourning at the warf where survivors arrived

Left: A White Island tour guide worker covers her mouth in shock on Tuesday after the volcanic eruption. Right: Locals are seen mourning at the warf where survivors arrived

People on Tuesday are seen grieving and comforting one another on the Whakatane Wharf following the volcanic eruption at White Island on Monday

People on Tuesday are seen grieving and comforting one another on the Whakatane Wharf following the volcanic eruption at White Island on Monday

People on Tuesday are seen grieving and comforting one another on the Whakatane Wharf following the volcanic eruption at White Island on Monday

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed on Tuesday morning it was unlikely the eight missing people are alive after drone flights and one pilot who managed to land found no sign of life.

‘To those who have lost or are missing family and friends, we share your unimaginable grief at this moment and time and in your sorrow,’ she said.  

‘You’re loved ones stood alongside Kiwis who are hosting you here – and we grieve with you and we grieve with them. 

‘To our Australian family, especially, we’ll do everything we can to support you as you have supported us.’    

Newlywed couple James, 23, and Madeleine Whitehouse, 24, from Brisbane, were also listed as missing as of early Tuesday morning but family later declared them safe.

According to their social media accounts, the couple married last September and had been on holiday in New Zealand. 

‘You fill my heart with joy every day James, and I’m so blessed to be your wife,’ Mrs Whitehouse wrote about her husband on their first wedding anniversary.

Sheree Toope, 31, and her girlfriend Tracey Rowe were also reported missing but loved ones were later advised by Royal Caribbean that the couple were not on the island during the eruption.

Samson Tamaliunas, 12, was also reported missing by loved ones at his home in Western Australia, but his parents later wrote on Facebook that he was safe and well.

New Zealander Geoff Hopkins (pictured with his daughter) who was on a boat tour around the island told how he pulled people from the sea after they desperately ran into the water to escape the heat of the eruption

New Zealander Geoff Hopkins (pictured with his daughter) who was on a boat tour around the island told how he pulled people from the sea after they desperately ran into the water to escape the heat of the eruption

New Zealander Geoff Hopkins (pictured with his daughter) who was on a boat tour around the island told how he pulled people from the sea after they desperately ran into the water to escape the heat of the eruption

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (right) and Foreign Minister Marise Payne address the media at Kirribilli House in Sydney on Tuesday morning

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (right) and Foreign Minister Marise Payne address the media at Kirribilli House in Sydney on Tuesday morning

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (right) and Foreign Minister Marise Payne address the media at Kirribilli House in Sydney on Tuesday morning

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern (right, with police official Bruce Bird) revealed that tourists from Britain, America, China and Malaysia were among the missing and injured along with New Zealanders

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern (right, with police official Bruce Bird) revealed that tourists from Britain, America, China and Malaysia were among the missing and injured along with New Zealanders

New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern (right, with police official Bruce Bird) revealed that tourists from Britain, America, China and Malaysia were among the missing and injured along with New Zealanders 

Whakaari also known as White Island, 48km (29mi) located off New Zealand's North Island, erupted around 2.11pm local time on Monday blowing huge plumes of smoke and debris 12,000 ft into the sky

Whakaari also known as White Island, 48km (29mi) located off New Zealand's North Island, erupted around 2.11pm local time on Monday blowing huge plumes of smoke and debris 12,000 ft into the sky

Dramatic footage shows plumes of smoke shooting up into the sky

Dramatic footage shows plumes of smoke shooting up into the sky

Whakaari also known as White Island, 48km (29mi) located off New Zealand’s North Island, erupted around 2.11pm local time on Monday blowing huge plumes of smoke and debris 12,000 ft into the sky 

Coastguard rescue boats arrive on the mainland near White Island following the volcanic eruption

Coastguard rescue boats arrive on the mainland near White Island following the volcanic eruption

Coastguard rescue boats arrive on the mainland near White Island following the volcanic eruption 

A rescue helicopter arrives at Whakatane Airport, on the mainland of New Zealand's North Island 30 miles from the volcano

A rescue helicopter arrives at Whakatane Airport, on the mainland of New Zealand's North Island 30 miles from the volcano

A rescue helicopter arrives at Whakatane Airport, on the mainland of New Zealand’s North Island 30 miles from the volcano

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern walks with police superintendent Bruce Bird on a visit to Whakatane on Monday

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern walks with police superintendent Bruce Bird on a visit to Whakatane on Monday

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern walks with police superintendent Bruce Bird on a visit to Whakatane on Monday 

Emergency services attend to an injured person arriving at the Whakatane Airfield after the volcanic eruption

Emergency services attend to an injured person arriving at the Whakatane Airfield after the volcanic eruption

Emergency services attend to an injured person arriving at the Whakatane Airfield after the volcanic eruption

The disaster immediately raised questions about why tourists were allowed to visit the island, after the volcanic alert level had been raised just weeks earlier.  

Cruise operator Royal Caribbean had sold a day trip to White Island as an ‘unforgettable’ adventure to New Zealand’s most active volcano, one that took visitors so close to the action they could require gas masks and hard hats.

White Island Tours said it ‘operates through the varying alert levels’ but that ‘passengers should be aware that there is always a risk of eruptive activity regardless of the alert level.’

Ms Ardern said there were legitimate questions to be asked but they could wait until the emergency response was complete.

‘The focus today is on providing critical care for those who have been injured,’ she said.

Scientists said there had been increased activity at the volcano over the past week – but nothing to indicate an eruption was imminent.

‘The eruption was unfortunate but not completely unexpected,’ said Jessica Johnson, a geophysicist at the University of East Anglia.

She said levels of activity ‘have been relatively high since September, and even more elevated over the last couple of weeks,’ with small earthquakes and more volcanic gas detected than usual. 

People are seen grieving and comforting one another on the Whakatane Wharf on Tuesday following the volcanic eruption at White Island on Monday

People are seen grieving and comforting one another on the Whakatane Wharf on Tuesday following the volcanic eruption at White Island on Monday

People are seen grieving and comforting one another on the Whakatane Wharf on Tuesday following the volcanic eruption at White Island on Monday

A person wrapped in a blanket is comforted by emergency services personnel following an eruption of the White Island volcano

A person wrapped in a blanket is comforted by emergency services personnel following an eruption of the White Island volcano

A person wrapped in a blanket is comforted by emergency services personnel following an eruption of the White Island volcano

Emergency services attend to an injured person arriving at the Whakatane Airfield after the volcanic eruption

Emergency services attend to an injured person arriving at the Whakatane Airfield after the volcanic eruption

Emergency services attend to an injured person arriving at the Whakatane Airfield after the volcanic eruption

Marshall-Inman’s brother, Mark Inman, confirmed his death and said he had ‘passed away doing the one thing he loved’. 

White Island Tours chairman Paul Quinn said describing the news as devastating was ‘an understatement’. 

‘This is a terrible tragedy and our thoughts and prayers are with everyone who has been impacted,’ Mr Quinn said.

‘We acknowledge the considerable efforts from Police and Civil Defence and will continue to do whatever is necessary throughout the rescue operation.

‘Our immediate focus is on supporting our staff, manuhiri and respective whānau, who have been significantly impacted and are showing immense strength and courage.’

Rescuers were unable to land on to the island due to fears of landslides and further eruptions. Officers said a New Zealand naval ship have since approached the shore and deployed drones and ‘observational equipment’ to scour the island.

St John dispatched seven helicopters to the island, but they were unable to land.

‘We are taking expert advice with regard to conditions to determine when we can safely access the island,’ a police statement read. 

Tourist Michael Schade said he and his family were on the volcano just 20 minutes before it erupted and witnessed the blast as they were leaving the island.

White Island, 48km from the Bay of Plenty region, began erupting about 2.11pm local time

White Island, 48km from the Bay of Plenty region, began erupting about 2.11pm local time

White Island, 48km from the Bay of Plenty region, began erupting about 2.11pm local time

‘This is so hard to believe. Our whole tour group were literally standing at the edge of the main crater not 30 minutes before. My thoughts with the families of those currently unaccounted for, the people recovering now, and especially the rescue workers,’ he said on Twitter.

‘My family and I had gotten off it 20 minutes before, were waiting at our boat about to leave when we saw it. Boat ride home tending to people our boat rescued was indescribable.

‘Praying for them and their recovery. Woman my mom tended to was in critical condition but seemed strong by the end. The helicopters on the island looked destroyed.

Allessandro Kauffmann, a Brazilian tourist who was in the first tour group for the morning said his group left the island ‘just in time’.

‘Some people have extensive burns on their bodies. Two tours on the volcano. Ours was the first. The other one right after. We left the island and wasn’t even five minutes before it erupted. This other tour that arrived after couldn’t leave in time,’ he said in an Instagram post. 

At least five people died in the eruption, with rescuers still unable to get on to the island. Pictured: People on a boat tour take pictures as the volcano erupts

At least five people died in the eruption, with rescuers still unable to get on to the island. Pictured: People on a boat tour take pictures as the volcano erupts

At least five people died in the eruption, with rescuers still unable to get on to the island. Pictured: People on a boat tour take pictures as the volcano erupts

Speaking on Monday, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said there were ‘a number of tourists’ from her country and overseas on the island at the time.  

‘I know there will be a huge amount of anxiety for those who have loved ones on or around the island at the time. I can assure them police are doing everything they can,’ Ms Ardern said.

Ms Ardern and Civil Defence Minister Peeni Henare travelled to the nearby Whakatane on Monday night. 

National Operation Commander Deputy Commissioner John Tims on Monday confirmed five people have died and multiple people were taken to hospital with burns, with the death toll expected to rise.   

‘I can confirm there are five people now deceased from the eruption on White Island,’ Mr Tims told reporters on Monday evening. 

‘A number of other people have been taken to a hospital. A number of people have burns as a result of the eruption. It is still too early for police to confirm how many people are involved. 

‘There are possibilities of further eruptions. The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island. It is important that we consider the health and safety of those that are going to rescue those on the island. So we will be taking that advice.’

The eruption at White Island – also known as Whakaari – thrusted a thick plume of white ash 3.6kilometres (12,000ft) into the sky.

‘A disaster waiting to happen’: Experts say tourist trips to White Island volcano were ‘too dangerous’

White Island was always ‘too dangerous’ for the number of tourists visiting the island, experts have said, as they warned of risks of further blasts and landslides.

Emeritus Professor Ray Cas, from Monash University, branded the island – also known by its Maori name Whakaari – ‘a disaster waiting to happen for many years’.

‘I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter,’ he said. 

In 1914, a small mining community on the island was wiped out after falling rocks weakened by the island’s volcanic activity swept through the village. 

The violent volcanic eruption on New Zealand's white Island was caused because ocean crust is being subducted (pictured, the series of events leading to the spontaneous eruption).  This constant movement means sudden explosions can occur at any moment

The violent volcanic eruption on New Zealand's white Island was caused because ocean crust is being subducted (pictured, the series of events leading to the spontaneous eruption).  This constant movement means sudden explosions can occur at any moment

The violent volcanic eruption on New Zealand’s white Island was caused because ocean crust is being subducted (pictured, the series of events leading to the spontaneous eruption).  This constant movement means sudden explosions can occur at any moment 

Mining activity was subsequently banned and the island has been uninhabited now for more than a century, but is a hotspot for tourists hoping to get close to an active volcano.

Large volcanic events such as the White Island eruption can often cause subsequent disasters.

GeoNet, New Zealand’s geological hazard information centre, describes White Island as New Zealand’s most active cone volcano. Only the top is visible, with around 80 per cent of it underwater.

Rescuers have been unable to visit the island in the wake of the disaster in order to search for survivors and victims, saying it is still too dangerous.

Explaining the dangers, Chris Elders, professor of Geology at Curtin University’s School of Earth and Planetary Sciences, told MailOnline: ‘This may be a combination of the ash in the atmosphere that would affect any helicopters.

‘Also, when you get an eruption like this, the ash deposits very quickly and creates rocks which are extremely unstable.

‘Any rainfall, which can be triggered by the ash sent into the atmosphere, could cause a landslide if the unstable rocks come loose.’

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said it was too early to explain the distaster. ‘I don’t wish to get ahead of what needs to be a proper investigation,’ she told TVNZ. ‘We will answer these questions but today the focus is on supporting this community.’ 

The island is about 50km (30 miles) offshore in the picturesque Bay of Plenty and attracts about 10,000 visitors every year.

A camera of the crater’s rim, run by monitoring agency GeoNet, set to take pictures every 10 minutes showed a string of people visiting the crater at 2.10pm.

The next shot taken, at 2.20pm, was unreadable as the blast had rendered the camera inoperable. 

At least four helicopters took off from mainland New Zealand, including a Westpac rescue aircraft, a Volcanic Air helicopter and two private choppers as pilots risked their lives to save others in a daring rescue mission. 

White Island is New Zealand’s most active volcano and had seen its last major eruption in 2001, with smaller events over the years until now.  

Geological hazard trackers GeoNet had registered moderate volcanic unrest on the island for weeks. The island even had a shipping container built on it to act as a bunker in the event of an eruption. It is not clear it if was used.

But the nature of volcano activity is unpredictable, with the eruption unforeseen by authorities. 

People are only allowed on the island as part of a tour with hard hats and gas masks. One section of the tour typically involves walking in the inner-crater where tourists are told to keep to tracks to avoid vents which discharge volcanic gases at between 100 and 800 degrees.

‘Anybody falling in a vent would be rapidly cooked,’ GNS Science says on its website. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed 24 Australians were visiting the island as part of a cruise ship tour group on Monday

Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed 24 Australians were visiting the island as part of a cruise ship tour group on Monday

Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed 24 Australians were visiting the island as part of a cruise ship tour group on Monday

Passengers on board Australia’s biggest cruise liner caught up in New Zealand’s volcano tragedy describe the horror of watching the injured be brought back to the ship 

Tourists on Australia’s biggest cruise ship are ‘grateful’ they decided to stay on board after passengers and crew members were caught up in New Zealand’s volcano tragedy.  

At least five people died in the powerful eruption on White Island, also known as Whakaari, at 2.11pm local time on Monday when an estimated 50 tourists were on or around the volcano crater.

Eighteen survivors were evacuated – some suffering severe burns – leaving an estimated 27 people unaccounted for. 

Australians were among the visitors on Whakaari from a nearby cruise ship, the Ovation of the Seas, which originated in Sydney.  

Tourists on Australia's biggest cruise ship - Ovation of the Seas (pictured) - are 'grateful' they decided to stay on board after passengers and crew members were caught up in New Zealand's volcano tragedy

Tourists on Australia's biggest cruise ship - Ovation of the Seas (pictured) - are 'grateful' they decided to stay on board after passengers and crew members were caught up in New Zealand's volcano tragedy

Tourists on Australia’s biggest cruise ship – Ovation of the Seas (pictured) – are ‘grateful’ they decided to stay on board after passengers and crew members were caught up in New Zealand’s volcano tragedy

The vessel, which has 4579 passengers and 1595 crew on board, is docked in Tauranga, 90 kilometres from White Island. 

Kasey Bebrouth, who lives in Ipswich, Queensland, wrote on Facebook she was safe on the cruise ship after choosing not to tour the island.

‘Okay so me and Marty are on the Ovation of the Seas and yes people have been hurt,’ she wrote.

‘The boat is staying overnight. At this point we are OK but very grateful that we stayed on the ship.

‘We thank everyone for their kind words and worries. We will post more when we know more, just know that we are safe.’ 

Her friend Stephen Irvine told News Corp he had been messaging the mother-of-one after the eruption and she said she saw injured passengers covered in ash being carried back to the boat.  

‘The passengers have been offered counselling,’ Mr Irvine said.

Stephanie Wright, whose Facebook says she’s a lighting technician at Royal Caribbean International, also wrote a status about being safely docked at Tauranga.

Stephanie Wright, whose Facebook says she's a lighting technician at Royal Caribbean International, also wrote a status about being safely docked at Tauranga

Stephanie Wright, whose Facebook says she's a lighting technician at Royal Caribbean International, also wrote a status about being safely docked at Tauranga

Stephanie Wright, whose Facebook says she’s a lighting technician at Royal Caribbean International, also wrote a status about being safely docked at Tauranga

‘This is absolutely tragic. I’m on Ovation of the Seas,’ Ms Wright wrote.

‘We’re docked overnight in Tauranga hoping and waiting for news and the return of our crew and passengers. 

‘Keep them in your thoughts and if you pray, hold them there too.’  

The captain of the vessel announced one crew member and a group of passengers were on the island when the volcano erupted, New Zealand Herald reported.  

Passenger Nigel Walker, from Wollongong, south of Sydney, extended his thoughts to those missing.   

Royal Caribbean issued a statement saying the ship would stay in the nearby port overnight 'until we learn more about the situation'. The Ovation of the Seas is pictured docked in Auckland

Royal Caribbean issued a statement saying the ship would stay in the nearby port overnight 'until we learn more about the situation'. The Ovation of the Seas is pictured docked in Auckland

Royal Caribbean issued a statement saying the ship would stay in the nearby port overnight ‘until we learn more about the situation’. The Ovation of the Seas is pictured docked in Auckland

‘It’s tragic… I was only saying to my mother-in-law before the cruise that White Island would be a great place to visit,’ he said. 

Royal Caribbean issued a statement saying the ship would stay in the nearby port overnight ‘until we learn more about the situation’.

The vessel, which embarked on a 12-day cruise from Sydney, was supposed to sail to Wellington on Monday evening before touring New Zealand’s South Island and returning to Circular Quay.  

Michael Schade, a traveller from San Francisco, said his tour group was standing at the edge of the main crater less than 30 minutes before the blast. 

Brazilian tourist Allessandro Kauffmann was on White Island moments before the eruption

Brazilian tourist Allessandro Kauffmann was on White Island moments before the eruption

Brazilian tourist Allessandro Kauffmann was on White Island moments before the eruption

‘My god, White Island volcano in New Zealand erupted today for first time since 2001,’ he wrote on Twitter.

‘My family and I had gotten off it 20 minutes before, were waiting at our boat about to leave when we saw it.

‘Boat ride home tending to people our boat rescued was indescribable.’

Mr Schade shared video footage of the destruction and some of the tourists who managed to escape onto his vessel.

Michael Schade, a traveller from San Francisco, said his tour group was standing at the edge of the main crater less than 30 minutes before the blast

Michael Schade, a traveller from San Francisco, said his tour group was standing at the edge of the main crater less than 30 minutes before the blast

Michael Schade, a traveller from San Francisco, said his tour group was standing at the edge of the main crater less than 30 minutes before the blast

‘Praying for them and their recovery. Woman my mum tended to was in critical condition but seemed strong by the end.

‘My thoughts with the families of those currently unaccounted for, the people recovering now, and especially the rescue workers.’ 

Brazilian tourist Allessandro Kauffmann, who was on a tour to the island, shared a series of Instagram stories throughout the day and said he fled moments before the eruption.  

‘Some people have extensive burns on their bodies. Two tours on the volcano. Ours was the first. The other one right after,’ he said after escaping. 

The White Island Tour operators are seen during the rescue operation about 12 to 14 minutes after the eruption

The White Island Tour operators are seen during the rescue operation about 12 to 14 minutes after the eruption

The White Island Tour operators are seen during the rescue operation about 12 to 14 minutes after the eruption

‘We left the island and wasn’t even five minutes before it erupted. This other tour that arrived after couldn’t leave in time.

‘We had to stay to help those people who were on the island. The boat from this other tour was covered in ash from the volcano.   

‘Very tense talking about this. We just have to hope that all is as well as can be.’ 

His partner Aline Moura shared videos of the eruption to Instagram to recount her day.

‘This was the end of today’s trip that I had. The beginning was excellent, lots of cool pictures, amazing experience,’ she wrote.

‘But nature is autonomous and man has no control over his will. 

Brazilian couple Allessandro Kauffmann and Aline Moura are pictured on their tour before the eruption

Brazilian couple Allessandro Kauffmann and Aline Moura are pictured on their tour before the eruption

Speaking in a series of Instagram stories, the couple said their boat helped rescue people who suffered burns from the eruption

Speaking in a series of Instagram stories, the couple said their boat helped rescue people who suffered burns from the eruption

Brazilian couple Allessandro Kauffmann and Aline Moura are pictured on their tour before the eruption (left). Speaking in a series of Instagram stories (right), the couple said their boat helped rescue people who suffered burns from the eruption 

‘Surely we never forget that day. Let us pray that everyone will be fine.’ 

Speaking in a series of Instagram stories, the couple recalled how their boat helped rescue people who suffered burns from the eruption. 

Police and emergency services haven’t been able to reach or make contact with those trapped by the blast.

National Operation Commander Deputy Commissioner John Tims told reporters on Monday evening that it’s currently too dangerous to search for survivors.  

‘There are possibilities of further eruptions. The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island,’ he said.

‘It is important that we consider the health and safety of those that are going to rescue those on the island. So we will be taking that advice.’   

 

Link hienalouca.com

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