Eight Dead, More Missing After New Zealand Volcanic Eruption

Two people who were being treated in the hospital after the eruption of New Zealand's White Island volcano have died. It brings the official number of dead in the disaster to eight.

The volcano on White Island in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty erupted without warning Monday. At least 47 visitors from around the world, including many from Australia, were on the island at the time of two explosions.

So far eight people have died in the disaster, but the death toll will increase.

Nine people are still officially missing, and are presumed to be dead.

A group of hikers was seen near the rim of the crater just moments before the blast.  Several bodies remain on the island, but recovery teams have been unable to reach them because of the risk of another eruption.

The volcano is considered to be too unstable, and sent plumes of ash and smoke billowing more than three kilometers into the sky.

Sarah Stewart-Black is New Zealand's Civil Defense Emergency Management Director.

“This is an utterly tragic situation," she said. "We all agree that retrieving bodies of the deceased from the island is an absolute imperative. Every day that passes with those bodies unrecovered is a day of anguish for their loved ones who have been affected. We recognise this and we are doing everything we can.”

Twenty people are in intensive care with severe burns. Some are so badly injured that they are unable to identify themselves. Five have been flown to Australia for treatment.

Among the dead are teenage Australian brothers Matthew and Berend Hollander.

The alert level at the popular tourist destination off New Zealand’s North Island was recently raised indicating “moderate to heightened volcanic unrest.” Officials had said there was no “direct hazard to visitors”.  

New Zealand sits on the Pacific Ring of Fire, a region notorious for its intense volcanic activity and earthquakes.


by via Voice of America - English

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