19 dead, search suspended: White Island volcano eruption New Zealand - Josh Loe

19 dead, search suspended: White Island volcano eruption New Zealand


  • New Zealand police on December 24 called off the search for two missing people presumed dead after one of New Zealand’s most active volcanoes erupted earlier this month.
  • The death toll from the incident stands at 19, including the two bodies that have not yet been found. 
  • Dozens more remain in the hospital with serious burns and injuries. 
  • New Zealand’s geological monitoring agency, GeoNet, said the eruption began at around 2:11 p.m. local time on Whakaari, also known as White Island, a popular tourist spot which features an active volcano.
  • Police last week said the environment was “highly unpredictable and challenging,” during the rescue mission.
  • Police released the nationalities of 47 people who were on the island when the volcano erupted, which included 24 Australians, two Chinese nationals, four Germans, one Malaysian national, five New Zealanders, two people from the UK, and nine people from the US. 
  • Police say it is too early to confirm whether there will also be a criminal investigation on the circumstances which allowed large numbers of people to visit the volcano before its eruption.
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New Zealand police on December 24 called off the search for two missing people after one of New Zealand’s most active volcanoes erupted earlier this month.

Authorities have been able to recover the bodies of six people, though two other people remain unaccounted for and are presumed dead.

The death toll from the incident stands at 19, including the two bodies that have not yet been found. 

One person who was injured in the eruption died in the hospital from their injuries on Monday.

Deputy Commissioner John Tims said that the unidentified person died in Middlemore Hospital in Auckland, New Zealand. 

Police said last week that another victim was repatriated to Australia, where they died. 16 others died in New Zealand. 

Police on said an extensive aerial search was conducted by local authorities in the weeks following the eruption.

“Sadly no further items of significance have been located,” they said in a statement. 

On December 24, authorities officially called off the search. 

“Police remain ready to respond if new information comes to light.”

Divers had planned to continued their mission to rescue the remaining two bodies in the coming weeks, though police have said the retrieval efforts remained “difficult.” 

“While it is most likely that the two remaining bodies are in the water, we need to be sure,” police said.

rescue mission ash

Photos of the recovery mission taking place on White Island.
New Zealand Police


Two others who sustained injuries during the eruption also died in the hospital.

Dozens of people remain in hospitals in Australia and New Zealand with severe burns, and police previously said that identifying the victims would be a “complex matter.”Around 186,000 square inches of skin are being brought in to treat the burn victims.

“We understand people’s desire to recover their loved ones and we are working around the clock to get onto the island so we can recover them as soon as possible,” police said. “Based on the effects of the eruption on the bodies, this recovery will need to be handled with expert skill and care.” 

Police say they are still working to confirm the identities of those who have died and who are injured. Police on Tuesday released the nationalities of 47 people who were on the island when the volcano erupted, which included 24 Australians, two Chinese nationals, four Germans, one Malaysian national, five New Zealanders, two people from the UK, and nine people from the US. 

rescue mission map

A map of the recovery mission taking place on White Island.
New Zealand Police


The eruption occurred at Whakaari, also known as White Island, a popular tourist spot located about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the east coast of country’s North Island.

White Island map


Screenshop/Google Maps


According to New Zealand’s geological monitoring agency, GeoNet, the unexpected eruption began at around 2:11 p.m. local time on Monday and sent ash plumes 12,000 feet into the air.

Police previously said that “no signs of life have been seen at any point” by helicopters and rescue aircrafts flying over the Island. 

GNS Science, New Zealand’s geoscience agency previously said that the volcano was producing “vigorous steaming and localized mud jetting in several of the craters created by the eruption,” which they interpreted as signs of continued high gas pressures within the volcano.

Police released the identities of some of the victims who died in The disaster: Matthew Hollander, 13, and his brother Berend Hollander, 16, both US citizens with Australian permanent residency,

The two boys attended Knox Grammar School in Sydney, The Guardian reported. The brothers were born in the US and moved from Chicago to Australia six years ago, ABC News reported.

Police announced that Martin Hollander, 48, the father of the two boys, was also killed in the incident. 

Several other victims were also named: Jessica Richards, 20, Jason Griffiths, 33, Kristine Langford, 45, and Karla Mathews, 32. They are all Australian citizens.

Whakaari, White Island

DigitalGlobe via Getty Images satellite image of Whakaari, White Island, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand.
DigitalGlobe via Getty Images via Getty Images


Police added that it was too early to confirm whether there will also be a criminal investigation on the circumstances which allowed large numbers of people to visit the volcano before its eruption.

 

Prime Minister Jacinda Arden expressed her condolences for those affected at a press conference.

“This is a volcano that has been visited for the better part of 30 years. However, we also hear, and absolutely agree, that there are questions that are being asked that must be answered and they will be.

According to GNS Science, White Island has been New Zealand’s most continuously active volcano for the last 40 years. 





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