By Fr John Waters
New Zealand’s Deputy Police Commissioner, John Timms, has confirmed that 5 people were killed as a result of the Volcanic Eruption on White Island, also known as Whakaari, on December 9th.
Deputy Commissioner Timms also told a press conference that many other people are in hospital as a result of being burned during the eruption. The commissioner did not confirm the numbers of those hospitalized.
He did confirm that a number of foreign tourists were among those affected, with many having been passengers on a Cruise ship which was visiting the Island.
White Island, also known by its Moari name of Whakaari, lies 30 miles off the East Coast of New Zealand’s North Island. It is the most active volcano in the region. Much of the volcano itself is underground, with only the peak breaking out above sea level and forming the island.
Smaller eruptions on the island were reported in 2012, 2013 and 2016.
Deputy Commissioner Timms also explained that conditions on the Island are preventing further rescue attempts.
“Due to current risk, emergency services are unable to access the Island. We have taken advice from Geonet, and they have assisted us in making a risk assessment, declaring that the Island is unstable. There are possibilities of further eruptions and it is unsafe for us to return to the Island” the commissioner said.
Geonet is a partnership between the Earthquake Commission, GNS science and Land information New Zealand. It monitors earthquake, Tsunami and Volcanic activity in and around New Zealand.
The Deputy Commissioner went on to explain that the safety of rescue teams must always be considered, as well as the safety of those whom they would assist.