Volcano Was 'a Disaster Waiting to Happen'

Tour guide among 6 dead following White Island eruption
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 10, 2019 6:53 AM CST
Volcano Was 'a Disaster Waiting to Happen'
In this Dec. 9, 2019, photo provided by Michael Schade, tourists on a boat look at the eruption of the volcano on White Island, New Zealand.   (Michael Schade via AP)

A person injured in the eruption of New Zealand's most active cone volcano has died in an Auckland hospital, pushing the confirmed death toll to six, with further casualties expected. Thirty people remain in the hospital, almost all with burns to more than 30% of the body, and some with inhalation burns requiring airway support. The eight people missing on White Island in Monday's eruption are assumed dead, reports the Guardian, though authorities say conditions are too dangerous to recover bodies. There remains a 50% chance of another eruption within a day, according to experts. In a Tuesday statement, per the AP, New Zealand police, who’ve launched an investigation into the deaths, said boats waiting offshore would deploy drones for reconnaissance and to measure gas levels as soon as strong winds die down.

Three Australians, a Malaysian, and a guide with White Island Tours are believed to have been killed in the eruption, per CNN and the Guardian. The chairman of the tour group says there was nothing to indicate an eruption was imminent. But Monash University volcanologist Raymond Cas describes the volcano as "a disaster waiting to happen." Others question why tourists were allowed when the volcano's alert level had been raised from 1 to 2 on a scale of 5 on Nov. 18 due to moderate volcanic tremors and an increase in sulfur dioxide gas, per the AP. "These questions must be asked and they must be answered," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in parliament Tuesday. A statement from the Buttle family, which has owned White Island for more than 80 years, says they are "absolutely heartbroken," per Stuff.co.nz. (More New Zealand stories.)

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