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New Zealand resumes mission to retrieve remaining bodies following volcanic eruption

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New Zealand resumes mission to retrieve remaining bodies following volcanic eruption

 

2019-12-13T210932Z_1_LYNXMPEFBC1QA_RTROPTP_4_NEWZEALAND-VOLCANO.JPG

Rescue crew are seen at the White Island volcano, also known by its Maori name Whakaari, in New Zealand, December 13, 2019, in this image obtained via social media. New Zealand Defence Force/Handout via REUTERS

 

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - New Zealand police said on Saturday they would search in the waters near the volcanic White Island in their attempts to retrieve two remaining bodies, following a fatal eruption earlier this week.

 

The remains of six people were successfully retrieved on Friday after a military team in gas masks and hazmat suits went on to the volcano and removed the bodies in a high-risk operation.

 

Police said they could not retrieve the remains of two more people, but were able to spot at least one body in the waters not too far from the shore.

 

"The Police Dive Squad and Navy divers this morning resumed their search for a body seen in the water on Tuesday," police said in a statement.

 

The police said they will not be returning to the island for a land-based search on Saturday, adding that they were analysing all information available and assessing possible next steps.

 

"Today's planning will allow us to return to the island to conduct further land-based searches for the remaining deceased, as the environment on and around the island allows," police said.

 

"There will be no return to the island today," it added in the statement.

 

The volcano, a popular tourist destination for day-trippers, erupted on Monday, spewing ash, steam and gases over the island. Among the 47 people on the island at the time were Australian, U.S., German, Chinese, British and Malaysian tourists.

 

The death toll from the eruption is now at 14, with two bodies on the island still classified as missing.

 

More than two dozen people are in hospitals across New Zealand and Australia, most with severe burn injuries.

 

Authorities have faced growing pressure in recent days from families of some victims to recover the bodies as soon as possible.

 

There has also been criticism that tourists were allowed on the island at all, given the risks of an active volcano.

 

(Reporting by Praveen Menon, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)

 

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-- © Copyright Reuters 2019-12-14

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I find it surprising that there were no seismic geophones planted on this island that would have probably predicted a significant forthcoming event. Usually there are tremors days or even weeks ahead of any major eruption 😞 Also for many days after !

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"The volcano had been showing signs of unrest for several weeks before the eruption. In October, volcanic tremors and sulphur dioxide gas were at their highest levels since 2016, indicating that an eruption was more likely to occur, and on 18 November, the volcano was rated at Volcanic Alert Level 2, indicating moderate to heightened volcanic unrest, due to increased activity. GeoNet, which tracks New Zealand's seismic and volcanic activity, raised its alert level on the island in November after increasing sulfur dioxide gas." 

 

I also read somewhere that a ranger saw a puff of smoke come out from the crater the week before. In a report from 2012, "White Island and Taranaki are highlighted as needing greater instrumentation." Such a tragedy! Our family toured Pompei in Italy, even though they told us it could erupt at any time, and was even due for an eruption. But tourists drove up there anyway. It's a drive up a mountainside (which is the volcano) to the city of Pompei. Maybe the tourists on White Island thought the same way. Six years ago I went with my husband on a business trip to Hawaii. We stayed on the island that has the Kilauea volcano. "This active volcano has been continuously erupting since 1983 & sees over 2 million yearly visitors." Our hotel was on the other side of the island, and they said we could drive to see the active volcano but we opted not to.

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It’s an interesting consideration. The whole of NZ sits on a major fault line in the Pacific rim of fire. We are constantly at risk from earthquakes and volcanoes dormant and alive as well as other constant thermal activity. Our largest disasters apart from Erebus are from earthquakes and volcanoes. We have ski fields and recreational walking tracks on the sides of another active volcano in Ruapahu which was heavily active in the mid 1990’s and the cause in 1945 of the Taniwai disaster and the lose of 151 lives. In the 1880’s another volcano Tarawera blew with only the relatively small population of the country keeping the death toll down to about 120. They along with White Island are just some of the active let along the dormant. The geology of the Bay of Plenty where I live shows, when land is cut, many layers meters deep of volcanic ash from various young recent eruptions. And the network of these volcanoes is among our most densely populated areas. It’s where we live and what makes the country one of the most beautiful and challenging in the world. And it’s part of what has developed the strength and character of Kiwis and made the country and us a risk loaded adventure paradise. 
It will be interesting to see where While Island adventure tourism goes from here. I think of my Thai daughters who have been there on school trips and I did not give it a thought. But if it was to occur now in the light of this eruption I would be thinking the school board would need committed to suggest a school trip there. But then I would be away with them tomorrow without a second thought to the ski fields at Ruapahu which has killed many, many more of us. 
 

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