By Cody Roark
On December 8th, a volcano erupted off the coast of New Zealand, killing at least five people while many others are reported as missing. White Island, in the Bay of Plenty is considered “New Zealand’s most active volcano.” The island itself remains uninhabited, however it is frequented by local and foreign tourists regularly.
Local police issued a statement on December 9th stating that “no signs of life have been seen at any point.” The statement also noted, “Police believe that anyone who could have been taken from the island alive was rescued at the time of the evacuation.” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told journalists and reporters alike that there were a number of tourists on or around the island at the time of the eruption, both New Zealanders and visitors from overseas, in a news conference following the tragedy. A NZDF ship will be deploying drones and other observational equipment to further assist in the recovery and assess the environment.
A number of the tourists that were visiting White Island to see the volcano came from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, the Ovation of the Seas. The cruise ship offered vacationers the chance to see the active volcano up close and there are photos of people inside the crater of White Island’s volcano minutes before the eruption. The prime minister had stated that it was believed 100 people were on or near the island at the time of the eruption.
The New Zealand Police statement provided significant resources for friends and family of all victims involved in the White Island eruption:
“The Police 105 number can be used by members of the public to submit information regarding friends or family who might have been visiting White Island during the eruption.”
“People from overseas can call +64 9105 105. At the request of New Zealand Police, New Zealand Red Cross has activated the Family Links website for people wanting to register themselves as safe or register an inquiry about a loved one.”
“If you are worried about a friend or family member following the White Island eruption, first contact them as you normally would. If you cannot make contact, you can register them through this website: https://familylinks.icrc.org/new-zealand/en/Pages/Home.aspx (link is external)”
“The friends and family of those involved remain at front of mind for Police. Support is being put in place and Police are working to provide them with information as it becomes available.”
A video surfaced that shows footage of the eruption seconds after it occurred. Filmed from a passenger boat offshore, it shows a massive cloud of smoke and ash enveloping the island. Voices are heard ushering tourists to get inside the boat’s passenger seating area, out of harm’s way.
As the search continues, all anyone can do is keep the hearts of all those affected, both foreign and domestic, in our thoughts. Emergency services for New Zealand are working tirelessly to help find all those reported missing, despite the reports that it is believed there are no survivors on the island itself.