Whakaari/White Island eruption

So far one person has been confirmed dead and a number are unaccounted for (perhaps 20-30), and about twenty injured have returned the mainland (North Island) after Whakaari/White Island erupted at about 2:12 pm today. More deaths are expected.

Information is only slowly being released by police.

The volcano, only 30% of which is the visible island above sea level, has had increased aactivity over the laast couple of months but there was obviously no indication that an eruption was imminent. A number of tourist groups were visiting the island.

Geonet: Whakaari/White Island eruption: an update

An eruption occurred at ~14:11 local time as an impulsive, shortlived event and affected the crater floor. Activity appears to have diminished since the eruption.

An eruption has occurred at Whakaari/White Island at ~14:11 local time. We are aware that people were on the island immediately before the eruption and we express our concern for their safety.

Our monitoring data shows that there was a short-lived eruption that generated an ash plume to ~12,000ft above the vent. Ash has covered the main crater floor as seen in our webcam images. Ash fall appears to be confined to the island and we do not expect more than a minor amount of ash to reach East Cape in the coming hours.
Our monitoring equipment is still operating, and we have seen a steady decline in activity since the eruption. There remains significant uncertainty as to future changes but currently, there are no signs of escalation.

The Volcanic Alert Level has decreased to Level 3.

The Aviation Colour Code remains at Orange.

GNS Science and the National Geohazards Monitoring Centre continues to closely monitor Whakaari/White Island for further signs of activity. Volcanic Alert Level 3 indicates a minor local eruption is in progress.

NZ Police:  Eruption on White Island + advisory

Police is working with National Emergency Management Agency to coordinate a search and rescue operation following a volcanic eruption at White Island this afternoon.

The eruption occurred about 2:11pm.

White it was initially believed there were approximately 100 people on or near the island at the time of the eruption, we now believe there were fewer than 50.

Some of those people have been transported to shore, however a number believed to be on the island are currently unaccounted for.

Of those transported to shore, at least one has been critically injured.

Emergency services are working to ensure the safety of everyone involved, including rescue staff.

A volcanic eruption is hazardous in the immediate vicinity of the volcano.

Volcanic hazards may impact on and near the volcano.

Since that advisory the police confirmed one death and an undisclosed number unaccounted for.

Photos show a tour party close to the crater activity 1-2 minutes before the eruption. It doesn’t look good for them.

The full Māori name for the island is ‘Te Puia o Whakaari’, meaning ‘The Dramatic Volcano.


RNZ Update:

Five people have been confirmed dead after the eruption at Whakaari / White Island, police have said.

Deputy Commissioner John Tims confirmed the deaths about 9pm and said it was too early to confirm nationalities but both Kiwis and overseas tourists were involved.

He told media the island was unstable and the physical environment was deemed too unsafe for police to return to and police did not know if there were still people alive on Whakaari / White Island tonight.


Tuesday

Police Update: Eruption on White Island – recovery operation

The Police Eagle helicopter, rescue helicopter, and NZDF aircraft have undertaken a number of aerial reconnaissance flights over the island since the eruption.

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.

Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already.

As part of the recovery a NZDF ship will approach the perimeter of the island at first light to deploy drones and observational equipment to further assess the environment.

Now called a recovery operation, which means bodies rather than survivors.

There were two successive explosions. Webcam from this morning shows some activity still:

A series of webcam shots before, during and since the eruption: https://www.geonet.org.nz/volcano/cameras/whakatane

Press conference at 7 am:

The police spokesman says that 47 people were on the island at the time of the eruption.

On top of the five deaths confirmed it is thought that there are eight still missing (presumed deceased) still on the island.

There are 31 injured and being treated in hospital.

Leave a comment

29 Comments

  1. Gezza

     /  9th December 2019

    I heard on 1News that Whakaari/White Island had been showing signs of unrest in the past few days. Despite GNS monitoring & reporting activity levels of all our volcanos on their Geonet site, the last eruptions of Ruapehu & Tongariro both caught everyone by surprise.

    Despite monitoring, actual volcanic eruptions seem to still be highly unpredictable.

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  9th December 2019

      Hmmmm…I don’t think that’s how volcanoes work. Any eruption other than minor will be preceded more earthquakes , rising temperatures and various other signs. The cause of an eruption lies at a deeper level and have to move closer to the surface.
      What I think you meant to say was the earlier signs of increased activity ‘doesn’t always mean’ there is a sizable eruption coming , not the other way round.

      Reply
      • Corky

         /  9th December 2019

        Let’s not quibble. The fact is White Island is an active volcano. You take your life in your owns hands if you want to visit. Unfortunately some people took that chance today and lost.

        Reply
      • Gezza

         /  9th December 2019

        No, what I meant was what I said.

        You can get killed or injured by eruption nobody warned you was coming. It makes no difference if someone like you wants to call it “minor” – it’s still an eruption.

        “At Tongariro in 2012 there had been around three weeks of earthquakes beforehand, although the number had decreased by the time of the August 6 sudden eruption. The November 21 eruption was preceded by no seismicity.”

        http://www.stuff.co.nz/science/10557708/NZ-volcanoes-could-erupt-unexpectedly

        Reply
        • Duker

           /  10th December 2019

          There is always ‘warnings’ , but of course the results of the warnings are unpredictable.
          The 2012 eruptions did have warnings… I dont know how people can say there was increased seimisicity and then there was ‘no warning’. They are very unpredictable, even when there is all the warnings of a looming disaster.

          I see also confused and ignorant comments from others about risk.
          Any outdoors activity has low or very low risk. Wear unsuitable clothing or ignore extreme weather warnings , up goes the risk, but its still low for experienced people.
          A volcanic island like Whakaari is high risk always ( its that type of volcano) , increased seimiscity means the risk goes through the roof. Clearly its summer and tourists have booked and its money to be made, to hell with sky high risk.

          Reply
      • There was very little advance warning, Duker, because it was a steam-driven eruption, driven by the expansion of water into steam when it comes in contact with shallow magma.

        That is supersonic in speed and water can expand to 1,700 times its original volume. This produces catastrophic impacts (and with little warning).

        Reply
  2. Alan Wilkinson

     /  9th December 2019

    The police seem to be playing games here. I really don’t think it is a good plan to give them control of rescue information. Not even sure they should be in charge of rescue operations.

    Reply
    • Corky

       /  9th December 2019

      Pike River revisited?

      Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  9th December 2019

        Smells like it to me.

        Reply
      • Corky

         /  10th December 2019

        4th dimension thinking gets to the hub of an issue before the herd by observing the reflecting aether.

        https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/politics/2019/12/very-unfair-police-minister-stuart-nash-rejects-white-island-comparison-to-pike-river.html

        Reply
      • Corky

         /  10th December 2019

        For those who have a problem with thinking laterally.

        The Pike River comparison had nothing to do with comparing the two events…but everything to do with how rescue operations proceeded ..or didn’t…and whether maybe nothing had been learnt form Pike River. The Police rescue was, and is, a POSSIBLE link between the two events. If you don’t understand the comment, ask for clarification..better still DON’T reply.

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  12th December 2019

          You don’t understand what lateral thinking is.

          One explosion was underground, deep inside a mine. There were many reasons why a rescue couldn’t be done immediately. Anyone who knows anything about mines will know that with the best will in the world, it can’t be done at once.

          The only thing that these two have in common is that they are both emergencies.It’s hard to see how anything can be learned from one that will fit the other.

          The people involved in the rescue services know what they’re doing. You don’t. Being a knowall is not a qualification.

          I know that I don’t know how to go about it, so don’t pretend to a knowledge that I don’t have.

          Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  9th December 2019

      Jacinda says an active police search and rescue operation is under way. Police say it is too dangerous to go onto the island. But 7 helicopters flew out there to pick up victims. And a boat leaving when it happened went back and picked up survivors. WTF?!

      Reply
      • Duker

         /  9th December 2019

        You haven’t seen the photo of the damaged and Ash covered chopper on the island then?

        Reply
        • Corky

           /  9th December 2019

          Would you expect different during the initial eruption?

          Reply
        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  9th December 2019

          That was there when it erupted. Haven’t you read what the owner said?

          Reply
          • Kitty Catkin

             /  10th December 2019

            The Pike River comparison is meaningless. These people were not underground, not in a massive gas explosion…it’s a stupid and pointless comparison. I’d guess that finding these people will be much easier than going back into Pike River.

            Reply
  3. Alan Wilkinson

     /  10th December 2019

    So the number missing is much reduced from initial statements thankfully but the news is all bad for them. Very sad that so many of those rescued have also died.

    All we need now is a statement from Folau.

    Reply
    • Corky

       /  10th December 2019

      Folau won’t get a word in. Maori will be in charge of this. Anything from a rahui to someone blaming not giving the ‘Lady Of The Harbour’ her due respect before leaving the confines of said harbour. Scientists will blame natural earth events; metaphysicians will say such occurrences are in the hands of fire elementals. And people stuffing their faces at KFC won’t give a fug.

      I wonder if someone/ organisation is going to be sued?

      Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  10th December 2019

      I think that Folau’s teeth have been drawn, Alan. I hope so.

      Reply
  4. Alan Wilkinson

     /  10th December 2019

    Rescuing people in a disaster seems always to be incompatible with health and safety rules and butt protections. In the absence of any formal suspensions of them just hope that if anything happens to you, you get rescued by brave individuals before the bureaucratic system takes over.

    I don’t know if that’s fair because the communication about what happens is heavily filtered by the police. But that’s how it feels.

    Reply
    • Kitty Catkin

       /  10th December 2019

      It isn’t fair, There is no point in a rescue if people don’t know what they are doing and end up endangering themselves and other people. I remember when family members wanted to look in the bush for two missing men, ignoring the fact that they were likely to get lost themselves and need to be found and rescued in their turn.

      Reply
      • Gezza

         /  10th December 2019

        While that’s true there’s no end of stories here & overseas of daring, caring people who put themselves in danger & save someone from a situation others stood back from, maybe phoning emergency services or just standing there videoing the scene because it’s too dangerous.

        I agree with Alan that once our police take over they seem to prevent those sorts of potential saviours from doing this, they block everyone put & the communications are often poor. Cops don’t want to tell you anything in case they get something wrong. Senior officers who handle media announcements are sometimes dreadful.

        Supt Gary Knowles at Pike River was completely incompetent when it came to information briefings.

        Reply

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