Whakaari-White Island – 6th death confirmed, body recovery planned

A victim of the Whakaari-White Island eruption has died in hospital, bringing the confirmed death toll to 6, but it seems certain that the 8 people missing are also dead. This makes the likely toll at least 14.

Attempts may be made to recover the bodies today.

Three people have been discharged from hospital, while 30 remain in hospitals, with 25 filling the burns units in Christchurch, Hutt Valley, Waikato and Middlemore Hospitals.

A total of 47 people were on the island at the time of the eruption. Another tour group has recently left, and returned to pick up some survivors.

Newsroom: Whakaari-White Island: Sixth person dies

MOH spokesperson Pete Watson said six patients had been transferred to Tauranga and Auckland to be treated and will be transferred to the four regional burns units as soon as there there is capacity.

“The volume of work facing our national burns unit at Middlemore hospital in one day is equivalent to the normal workload that they would see in a typical year at the burns unit at Middlemore,” Mr Watson said.

Twenty-seven people suffered burns to more than 30 percent of their bodies in the eruption yesterday afternoon.

Many of the patients have suffered inhalation burns.

Mr Watson said only a few of the patients were not in a critical condition and all of the burns units are currently at capacity.

Geonet (yesterday): Whakaari/White Island eruption: update #3

Since this morning, the seismic activity has remained weak, yet we continue to see periodic steam and gas driven jetting from the active vent area. The Volcanic Alert Level remains at Level 3.

Over the next 24 hours we still estimate an equal likelihood of either no eruption or a smaller/similar sized eruption that would impact the main crater floor, based on our observations and measurements. There is a high level of uncertainty associated with this estimate and we are working to reduce that uncertainty. We also estimate the least likely scenario is a larger eruption. There is an extremely low likelihood of any ash impact to the mainland, but people may smell gas, depending on the prevailing wind direction.

Police (yesterday): Whakaari / White Island eruption – Work continues on recovery operation

Police continues to work on the recovery operation following yesterday’s eruption on Whakaari / White Island.

Windy conditions this afternoon have meant drones have been unable to be deployed yet, but they will be as soon as conditions allow.

We are continuing to take advice from scientific experts including from GNS Science, who are considering three aspects of the recovery operation:

  • the condition on the island,
  • the requirements those going on the island will need,
  • and the care and transportation of the bodies when they are recovered.

We understand people’s desire to recover their loved ones and we are working around the clock to get onto the island so we can recover them as soon as possible.

Police can also confirm we have commenced an investigation into the circumstances of the deaths and injuries on Whakaari / White Island.

The Terms of Reference will be developed in the coming days.

At this time Police is investigating the death of the individuals on Whakaari / White Island on behalf of the Coroner.

To correct an earlier statement, it is too early to confirm whether there will also be a criminal investigation.

Debate has begun about if tours can resume to Whakaari. Whakatane has a big stake in the business and will be significantly affected by the tours ceasing.

Some volcano experts suggest there should be no more tourism to the volcano as the risks are too high.

Obviously demand will be about nil for a while anyway, but I think it will be difficult to get tours going again. I personally think the risks are too high just for a bit of a look at a live volcano.


Update from Geonet this morning:

Since around 4:00 am this morning the level of volcanic tremor has significantly increased at the island. This has been accompanied by vigorous steaming and localised mud jetting in several of the craters created by the eruption on Monday. We interpret these signals as evidence of continued high gas pressures within the volcano.

The situation remains highly uncertain as to future activity. Eruptions in the next 24 hours are still likely to occur.

https://www.geonet.org.nz/vabs/3LmmJQODgSlQPX1zgOVwmd

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59 Comments

  1. Corky

     /  11th December 2019

    This government won’t be able to contain its self – tourism to White Island will be BANNED. However, I believe observations from a safe distance of say…500 kms will be allowed.
    It will be interesting to see how National would proceed should they become government.

    I may also be living in a bubble…the last time I was in the area White Island was always referred to as White Island. Looks like Whale Island is going the same way. Trifles you say, especially at a time like this. But during a crisis many things are implemented that stay for good. Just ask gun owners.Just ask the soon to be unemployed tourist Industry personnel in the Whakatane area.

    On the bright side, I was whining yesterday about the police implementing a criminal investigation. Thankfully they have back-tracked on that. Yeah, but the fugwit who gave the green light for such action is still in the police force. What skewered decisions will he make in the future?

    Reply
    • The Māori name Whakaari is recorded in multiple 19th century texts by Europeans, with one mention dating back to 1849, though spelling varied including Wakaari, Whakari, and Whaka ari.

      Some Māori myths describe Whakaari as part of Ngatoro-i-Rangi’s ascent of Tongariro. In one account, he called on his ancestors for warmth; the fire was kindled on Whakaari and brought to him. Other versions of this story are similar but it is his sisters, or the gods, who send him warmth from Whakaari.

      Whakaari was named “White Island” by Captain Cook on 1 October 1769.

      The island’s official name was changed from “White Island (Whakaari)” to “Whakaari/White Island” in 1997.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whakaari/White_Island#Name

      Whakaari was it’s original name, before Cook gave it a bland description. There is also a While Island just off St Clair in Dunedin.

      Te puia whakaari or Whakaari sounds more appropriate to me. It has much more significant history.

      Reply
      • Corky

         /  11th December 2019

        Pete, honestly, I don’t care what that Island is called. But I find it amusing that most locals, including Maori, just call it White Island. That has been my experience. Perhaps Maori use its Maori name at more formal events, or on legal documents etc. I don’t know.

        My problem is this huge push to Maorify all of New Zealand.From news presenters speaking pidgen Maori, to school kids who can’t add 2+2, but boy, do they know their school haka off by heart.

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  11th December 2019

          Pidgin, not pidgen.

          Both names are banal; Dramatic Volcano Island and White Island, there’s nothing to choose between them for sheer inanity.

          Reply
        • Corky

           /  11th December 2019

          Grammar Nazi on deck. Talking of inanity…. given it’s a blog filled with bad grammar.

          Reply
    • Gezza

       /  11th December 2019

      However, I believe observations from a safe distance of say…500 kms will be allowed.

      The island’s 48 km from the coast ! Safe enuf.

      Reply
      • Corky

         /  11th December 2019

        Not for this government. Their stupidity is only outdone by their ignorance…in my opinion.

        Reply
  2. Pickled Possum

     /  11th December 2019

    Correct pete I have been on the PJ for a visit to White Is with a ticket brought by a visiting tourist for my birthday. I didnt want to go but the thought of missing a chance to walk on the Is I looked at every day was too great. Plus the tourist were in disbelief that I just lived over there and never been on Whakaari. Just the boat ride out was fraught with danger .. I thought. Big trees floating in the sea, spewed out of the many rivers on the Coast.
    It was surreal. The yellow sulphur the smell. The temp on the top of the lake was 800 degrees underneath that you can feel the mega heat. The tour guides were some of the best guides I have been with. But I was glad to be off her.
    All the Coasties knew if White Is isnt smoking run for the hills, Fast!!. It would take a mere 14 mins for a tusnami to reach the shore on a big blow up.
    Imho She has had enough people walking on her whenua She wants to be left in peace. So we should view her beauty from afar.

    Reply
  3. Ray

     /  11th December 2019

    The Police are not covering themselves in glory, a misspoke threat, standing down the helicopters the moment they took control and so it goes.
    I understand Health & Safety rules but 100% safety can never guaranteed but sensible risk assessment seems to go out the window in these situations.

    Reply
    • There’s no chance of anyone being alive on the island so taking time to be sure of relative safety seems to be wise in this case. There is no need to put more people at unnecessary risk.

      Thee police are damned if they proceed with caution, but would be really dumped on if they went in too quickly and incurred casualties.

      And yesterday Geonet said there was a 50/50 chance of another eruption within a day.

      Reply
      • The police are in charge and have legal responsibilities too met, ones they can’t simply waive away. I’m sure the pilots have assessed the danger well and are correct that now is a good time to retrieve the bodies. But I’m sure its the lawyers that will give the final ok.

        Our system is the poorer when lawyers get to make the decisions as to when and what we do but that is the way it is.

        Reply
      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  11th December 2019

        I suspect that Geonet probability estimate has an uncertainty of close to 50%.

        Reply
      • In fairness to the Police, they’re forced to operate within the law and our health and safety laws. And thanks to Pike River, the Police are more risk averse.

        Evidently, there are no signs of life on the island and the risk of further hydrothermal eruptions is still high, so while the Police have the legal responsibility for all body recovery activities in NZ, there’s no value in risking a higher body count by demanding they go in immediately.

        IMHO criticism of the Police is premature.

        Reply
        • A GeoNet update at 10:30 this morning:

          “Since around 4:00 am this morning the level of volcanic tremor has significantly increased at the island. This has been accompanied by vigorous steaming and localised mud jetting in several of the craters created by the eruption on Monday. We interpret these signals as evidence of continued high gas pressures within the volcano. The situation remains highly uncertain as to future activity. Eruptions in the next 24 hours are still likely to occur.”

          So some serious hazards for those involved in the retrieval operation.

          Reply
      • Corky

         /  11th December 2019

        Yeah, but what happens if people want to put their lives at risk for a rescue operation? There should be a waiver relieving the state and public of any responsibility for such action. Of course, there would be no rescue attempts made for such a mission should things turn pear shape. As it is we are assuming there is no chance of people being alive.While that is almost a given, we just don’t know. If the bodies are exposed, could they suffer the indignity of being eaten by seagulls?

        All I see is the government and its bureaucracies getting their lines in a tangle. It looks like Pike River part two..with a royal enquiry to follow.

        I hope I’m wrong and this gets sorted soon for the sake of grieving families involved

        Reply
  4. lurcher1948

     /  11th December 2019

    The risk is at level 3 so if it worries all the righties who are badmouthing the police and our PM Jacinda Ardern for having being there (Whakatane)get task force Bridgers out there looking for bodies,put up or shut up.

    Reply
    • lurcher1948

       /  11th December 2019

      Stolen from”the daily blog”
      Every time there is a shock to us as a nation, Jacinda steps up with such amazing empathy & sympathy – she leads with healing & courage & in times as sad as this, she is constantly the silver lining.

      This is what political leadership looks like.

      and all that Simon Bridges shock troops can do is start #turnardern where ferals go out and turn around women weeklies if there’s a picture of the PM on the cover

      Reply
      • You’re the one trying to make political hay here.

        Reply
      • Pink David

         /  11th December 2019

        “Every time there is a shock to us as a nation, Jacinda steps up with such amazing empathy & sympathy – she leads with healing & courage & in times as sad as this, she is constantly the silver lining.”

        Isn’t this the Shock Doctrine in action? Don’t look at her ability to actually deliver on the promises she has made, just look at how good she is at photo ops and hugging.

        Reply
      • Jay3

         /  11th December 2019

        She is good at grandstanding, I’ll give you that.

        Reply
        • Kitty Catkin

           /  11th December 2019

          Her words are hackneyed and haven’t much real meaning.

          I’d hardly call her a silver lining, a few glib words won’t take away the horror of something like this.

          Reply
  5. Gezza

     /  11th December 2019

    At this time Police is investigating the death of the individuals on Whakaari / White Island on behalf of the Coroner.

    As I posted yesterday was most likely the case. They need to interview as many survivors & witnesses as they can for the coroner, while they are all still there & the details are fresh in their minds.

    Good to have Possum’s recollection of a visit to the Island. I’d have wanted to go there if given the opportunity too.

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  11th December 2019

      Thats good to know …the term ‘criminal’ investigation was totally inappropriate. They meant ‘coroner’

      Plenty of ‘thermal valleys’ for tourists to visit, which give a similar ‘volcanic’ experience
      https://www.waimangu.co.nz/

      It too killed some tourists around 100 years ago when it was more active ( its an offshoot of the Tarawera eruption)

      Reply
  6. Alan Wilkinson

     /  11th December 2019

    It’ll definitely be off the cruise ship day-trip options. Be more work for helicopter tourism. And they’ll have to think about what could be done safely. I doubt that will include climbing up to the crater.

    Reply
  7. lurcher1948

     /  11th December 2019

    9.15 on Magic Talk”the voice of the Nationl Party Peter Williams bad mouthed Jacinda Ardern HER SIN she cuddled first responders,the hatred from old rightwingers is a true revelation

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  11th December 2019

      How quickly they forget
      “The Prime Minister John Key has visited Fox Glacier to offer his support, after a plane crash which killed 9 people there earlier this [2010] month.”
      https://www.rnz.co.nz/national/programmes/checkpoint/audio/2406028/john-key-visits-fox-glacier-plane-crash-site

      Reply
    • No her sin was to cuddle Shane Jones while he was turning a blind eye to his conflict of interest over the Gisborne Forestry deal. We all saw the big smirk on his face while she looked looked on with an expression of faux concern.

      Reply
      • Duker

         /  11th December 2019

        You clearly have a ‘gift’ for interpreting facial expressions Arty, ever thought of becoming a spirit medium ?

        Reply
        • Corky

           /  11th December 2019

          I sense a spirit call Jed wearing buffalo chaps. Hold the line..Cactus Bill is coming through.🤔

          Reply
      • duperez

         /  11th December 2019

        The expressions on Ardern’s face and commenting on them is an activity which seems to be growing. The degree to which they’re faux, the seriousness with which to take them, their meaning and the frequency of the different types might not be an art but the interpretation of and connotations put on them have drawn many in.

        Surely there is a market to be captured and commercialised. Coupling aspects of that to conjecturing and postulating about what she said meant could be just the sort of activity to spark an economic boom.

        Ardern says sorry means … Ardern saying sorry means that about 97,000 will say what she means. Some might even think that she could possibly mean that she’s sorry.

        The richness to be explored is shown by this comment on Monday evening about Ardern being interviewed about the eruption : “Yep, she couldn’t look straight at the camera in case she displayed her joy at the opportunity of having the international spotlight on her. You could almost see her mentally planning her wardrobe.”

        Reply
        • Gezza

           /  11th December 2019

          One thing you can probably safely say about Jacinda is that she’s not overly-fussed about what she wears, & doesn’t bother to power dress, or to deck herself out in designer gear like a model or a fashion icon. She wears mostly the same outfits day to day, like the rest of us.

          Reply
          • duperez

             /  11th December 2019

            And that’s good. It means that those upset when she’s in the media, upset when she’s not, are so vexed about her facial expressions and know (and state often) that she spends most of her time with children, have what she wears as another focal point to chide and scorn her for. Spreading their targets makes them seem versatile and not narrow-focussed and minded! 🙂

            Reply
          • Duker

             /  11th December 2019

            Compare Ardern with that fashion plate Paula Bennett….she’s styled and tummy tucked to an inch of her life.

            Reply
            • Corky

               /  11th December 2019

              I saw a Lefty MP sheila on One News tonight who would give Paula a go. Very attractive…Ginny somebody.

  8. This is why they didn’t try to recover bodies today as intended:

    That’s seismic activity over the last 24 hours.
    https://www.geonet.org.nz/volcano/monitoring/whiteisland

    Reply
    • Duker

       /  11th December 2019

      They have some data too on the underground gas pressure as well which isn’t good

      Reply
  9. Zedd

     /  11th December 2019

    watching Ch3 news.. some in Intl media (in Whakatane) are asking why a press conf. Q+A was cut very short. They even said it seems that they are being denied info. ?

    Is this going to start looking like Pike river..
    >Questions about; ignoring safety rules ? :/

    A foreign journo. said (paraphrased) ‘There are dead foreign people, in this country & they want answers’
    It cant, just be buried… like Pike river ! :/

    Reply
    • Corky

       /  11th December 2019

      Crikey, Zedd. You are a 4th dimension thinker. I would never have guessed. Maybe there’s more to this Dak business then I thought.

      Reply
    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  11th December 2019

      The cops shouldn’t be in charge of communications. They are too used to manipulating the media for their own purposes.

      Reply
      • Duker

         /  11th December 2019

        I see on TV the wharf where the boats came in are still blocked off…maybe sightseers aren’t wanted but keeping media a long way away?
        Same goes for road to airport…blocked off to media , even when all the injured are in hospitals around the country. What’s the big secret to seeing helicopters and drones coming and going to the island
        What’s there to hide from cameras?
        Strangev

        Reply
      • Gezza

         /  11th December 2019

        Yes, ma said a TV3 promo item showed the top cop cutting the press conference short. It didn’t get shown on TV1 & nothing was mentioned about that on 1News at 6. I’ve seen this senior cop Tims doing a briefing before though. He’s another Senior cop who’s no good at press conferences. Must watch tv3 on demand & see how they handled the item.

        Unfortunately we can contrast our top cops doing briefings after such events with their counterparts in the US. Ours are often stilted & poor public communicators by comparison. They are often frustrating to watch for how little information they give out & how poorly they handle reporters questions.

        Reply
        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  11th December 2019

          I think they deliberately withheld a lot of information for many hours. They don’t hold any regard for the public’s right to information. And they are perennially the worst performing Govt entity re the OIA which they just treat with contempt.

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  11th December 2019

            The problem with Police, imo, is that they are fundamentally trained to prevent, arrest, investigate & prosecute criminals. They treat emergencies & disasters as though they are crimes & they are hard wired through their training & butt covering management to give out as little information as possible so as to:

            1. avoid prejudicing fair trials
            2. avoid getting anything wrong, or giving something away that could prevent a later prosecution, by telling always media & the public as little as possible, rather than provide updates as more information becomes available
            3. hide errors of judgement, process or procedure.

            Reply
        • Gezza

           /  11th December 2019

          Just watched it. The police press conference was abruptly cut short after just four minutes when the whoever the cop was (not Tims) just said thank that’s all & walked off !

          International media reporters from Australia, the US & various orher countries were clearly gobsmacked. People back home want information & our Police are pissing them off big time.

          Requests to Police HQ for an explanation from Newshub & furious & incredulous foreign media reps have gone unanswered. They are bloody hopeless.

          Reply
          • duperez

             /  11th December 2019

            Media people want stories so they can get paid. The families involved aren’t going to watch the tv or read a paper to get news of their family members. The authorities should use their energy tending to them. I take AW’s point about the public’s right to information. I’m prepared to put my demand for information on hold. There are more important things than my knowing. And I’d reckon the same for someone in Idaho needing details.

            I have a general disdain for the media. I know they have important roles but when they talk about the public’s ‘right to know’ in these circumstances I put it into context of the clamour they apply to things like an All Black in a dunny or some Royal family member who picked her nose.

            Reply
            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  12th December 2019

              You don’t have a family member dead, missing or in hospital while police are refusing information.

        • Gezza

           /  11th December 2019

          Are we getting this situation again?

          Pike River aftermath
          “Superintendent Gary Knowles told the Royal Commission he still had memories of that day and he formally apologised to the families for the way in which it was handled. A spokesperson for the bereaved relatives, Bernie Monk, issued a statement later, saying he accepts the apology, adding the police are human beings.

          No challenge to police role – Knowles

          Earlier in the day, Superintendent Knowles, the Tasman Police District Commander, told Commissioners the police were never challenged in their decision to take control of emergency teams.

          This contrasts with comments made by others to the inquiry. Opinion covered so far has suggested the police should never have taken control of the operation but should have left this role to experts in mining and mines rescue.

          Superintendent Knowles said the police taking charge matched general practice. He also rejected suggestions the police should have authorised sealing off the mine, saying neither the mine company nor the Department of Labour wanted that.

          “At no times was I or other police officers challenged by anyone as to who was the lead agency. No-one from any other agencies ever suggested that another agency was better qualified at that time to step up and take command of the situation,” he said.

          “Furthermore, I’m not aware of any other police officer, including myself, in the time I was on Operation Pike who’s been challenged in relation to that role.”

          He said the pattern of the police controlling incidents with a technical component, such as caving disasters and search and rescue operations, was standard practice.

          I din’t think our Police are up to this job.

          Reply
          • Gezza

             /  11th December 2019

            *din’t = don’t, soz

            Reply
          • Gezza

             /  11th December 2019

            We ought to be looking at an agency whose job & training is to manage Disasters & Emergencies. Civil Defence is one possibility. If they’re not fully trained for it, they bloody well should be.

            The police should only assist a separate Emergency & Disaster Management controlling agency. This is the second major disaster they’re screwing up having control over. They’re treating it like a bloody crime scene, & a criminal investigation, FFS!

            They shouldn’t be running this operation, imo.

            Reply

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