Volcano Eruption at Island in New Zealand Causes Disaster


Ian Dahl, Contributer

Disaster struck on White Island when the volcanic island suddenly erupted while tourists were visiting the island. White Island, also known as Whakaari, is considered to be New Zealand’s most active volcano and has been built up by continuous volcanic activity over the past 150,000 years off the east coast of New Zealand. Despite being an active volcano, White Island has become a popular attraction for tourists and attracts many visitors throughout the year.

White Island erupted on Monday, December 9th, trapping numerous tourists who were visiting the island at the time. New Zealand police commissioner, John Tims, announced that “twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated on Monday”. Officers and emergency rescuers believed that more people were still trapped on White Island after the eruption. There were also tourists aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship were also among those that were visiting White Island. Jonathon Fishman, a spokesperson for Royal Caribbean, assured that the company was “working together with local authorities, and providing all the help and care we can to our guests and their families, including offering medical resources and counseling.” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the tourists on White Island had little time to find shelter on the island before the eruption occurred and “a number of people are reportedly injured.” “To those who have lost or are missing family and friends, we share in your unfathomable grief at this moment in time and in your sorrow,” Jacinda Ardern said at a news interview in Whakatane, a coastal town close to the volcano. Jacinda also added, “I know that there will be a huge amount of anxiety for those who had loved ones on the island at the time,” additionally saying that she would not provide information about the victims of the eruption.

GeoNet, the organization that checks various geological activity in New Zealand, originally set the volcanic alert level to level four, where five is a major eruption. GeoNet also reported that the volcanic eruption occurred at 2:11 PM. Fortunately, GeoNet lowered the volcanic alert level down to three several hours later, reporting that there was no additional increase in volcanic activity.

Police forces announced on Tuesday night that they do not believe that there are any survivors left on White Island. “No signs of life have been seen at any point. Police believe that anyone who could have been taken from the island alive was rescued at the time of the evacuation. Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island,” said the New Zealand police.

White Island is New Zealand’s most active volcano and 70% of the volcano is under the sea. Despite GeoNet’s earlier warnings of “moderate volcanic unrest” with “substantial gas, steam and mud bursts” observed in the volcano’s crater lake, tourists were still allowed to visit the island. Brad Scott, a GeoNet volcanologist, announced in an interview, “We’ve issued two or three bulletins in the last few weeks about the increase in activity.” Despite White Island’s volcanic activity since 2011, tourists have been determined to visit the island, with visits even dating back to the late 1800s.