Death Toll From New Zealand Volcano Disaster Continues to Climb

WHAKATANE, NEW ZEALAND - DECEMBER 11: Smoke is seen over White Island on December 11, 2019 in Whakatane, New Zealand. Six people are confirmed dead and several people are missing following a volcanic eruption at White Island on Monday. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)

The death toll from the New Zealand volcano disaster continues to climb after two more victims hospitalized with severe burns succumbed to their injuries.

Police said the official toll has risen to eight, with eight more missing and presumed dead. A further 28 people, many with critical burn injuries, remain in hospitals around the country. Some are expected to be flown to hospitals in Australia in coming days. There were 47 people on White Island when the offshore volcano erupted on Monday afternoon in a forceful explosion of scorching steam and ash. Many suffered horrific burns.

Recovery of the eight bodies still on the island has been delayed by an increase in volcanic activity. Police said they won’t attempt to land on the island until they’re sure it’s safe to do so.

“The last thing we want to do is to have further causalities in what is already a significant tragedy,” Police Minister Stuart Nash said.

Of those on the island at the time of the eruption, 24 were from Australia, two were from the UK, four from Germany, two from China, one from Malaysia, nine from the U.S., and five from New Zealand. Some of those in hospital are so badly burned they can’t communicate or be identified.

“The scale of this tragedy is devastating,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told parliament Tuesday. “Police and Defence Force personnel have undertaken a number of aerial reconnaissance flights over the island since the eruption, however no signs of life have been detected.”

New Zealand sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, a belt of volcanic and seismic activity that rings the Pacific Ocean. The latest tragedy follows a devastating earthquake in the South Island city of Christchurch in 2011 that killed 185 people. The nation is still coming to terms with a terrorist attack on two Christchurch mosques in March this year that killed 51 worshippers.

To contact the reporter on this story:
Matthew Brockett in Wellington at [email protected]

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Matthew Brockett at [email protected]
Tracy Withers


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