Volcanic island erupts as tourists visit . . .
Six people have been confirmed dead, nine are still missing, 29 remain in hospital, and three have now been discharged following Monday’s volcanic eruption on Whakaari/White Island 48 km off the coast of New Zealand. Members of the tour group on the island at the time of the eruption were from Australia (24), the U.S. (nine), New Zealand (five), Germany (four), China (two), the U.K. (two), and Malaysia (one). Known for its frequent volcanic activity, the island is a popular tourist destination. Aerial images showed tourists in the volcano crater just minutes before the eruption.
Rescue efforts hampered . . .
First responders immediately evacuated the island after the eruption, with the injured taken out by boat and helicopter. Most of the injured suffered major burns and the effects of inhaling toxic fumes and ash. No further rescue attempts have been made due to an elevated risk of a further eruption, although police aerial reconnaissance has shown no signs of life on the island. The nine missing are presumed dead.
Hospitals at full capacity . . .
Surgeons in hospitals close to the area of the tragedy are working around the clock to treat the 27 burn victims, with some having burns to over 90 per cent of their bodies. Twenty-two of the injured also require assistance breathing. Authorities have ordered 1.2 million square cm of skin grafts from the U.S. to treat the injured. The process of identifying victims has begun, and both experts and the media have raised the question of whether the tour operators could be charged with criminal negligence. While New Zealand police initially said a criminal investigation was being conducted, that claim has since been retracted, with police stating that it is too early to determine whether there will begin a criminal investigation.