New Zealand volcano: Rescuer tells of 'Chernobyl'-like scene


10th December, 2019 05:45:23 printer

New Zealand volcano: Rescuer tells of 'Chernobyl'-like scene

A paramedic who flew to New Zealand's White Island to rescue tourists after Monday's volcanic eruption has said the scene was like something out of "the Chernobyl mini-series".

"Everything was blanketed in ash," Russell Clark told TVNZ.

Dozens of tourists were on the island at the time. Six have been confirmed dead. Eight others are feared to have died and about 30 have serious burns.

New Zealand's PM Jacinda Ardern praised the crews of four rescue helicopters.

"Those pilots made an incredibly brave decision under extraordinarily dangerous circumstances in an attempt to get people out," she told reporters on Tuesday.

"To those who have lost or are missing family and friends, we share in your unfathomable grief and in your sorrow," she added.

At least 47 people from around the world were on the island at the time of the eruption.

Why were tourists allowed near the volcano?

Questions are being asked about why tourists were allowed to approach New Zealand's most active volcano three weeks after seismologists raised its alert level, describing the situation as "moderate to heightened volcanic unrest".

"These questions must be asked and they must be answered," Ardern said in Parliament on Tuesday. A police investigation is under way.

Geological hazard monitoring group GeoNet warned last week that White Island "may be entering a period where eruptive activity is more likely than normal" - but it also said "the current level of activity does not pose a direct hazard to visitors".


Currently, the alert level is at three, indicating the risk of a "minor volcanic eruption".


How serious are the injuries?

Thirty-four people were rescued, and most of them are still receiving treatment in hospital.

Officials say they have burns to more than 30% of their bodies. Several others are also suffering from inhalation burns. Doctors say some may not survive.

Police said they were "unsure" what state the bodies that remained on the island were in, saying they were probably "covered in ash".

White Island remains too dangerous to access, but reconnaissance flights conducted earlier on Tuesday saw no survivors.

 Ardern said there were no signs of life and that the focus was now "on recovery".

Ash covered White Island


Who was on the island?

There were 24 visitors from Australia, nine from the US, five from New Zealand, four from Germany, two from China, two from the UK, and one person from Malaysia.

The first victim to be identified was tour guide Hayden Marshall-Inman, a local of nearby town Whakatane, who according to New Zealand media has been named by his brother on Facebook.

The second person confirmed to have died is from Malaysia, the country's High Commission said.

Another tour guide from New Zealand, 23-year old Tipene Maangi, is among the missing. His family told media he had been called in on his day off.

Two British women were among those receiving treatment, said the UK High Commissioner to New Zealand, Laura Clarke.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he "feared" three of the five confirmed dead were Australian.

Morrison said that 24 Australians were on board a cruise ship exploring the island in the Bay of Plenty when the volcano erupted. Of those, 13 were in hospital and 11 were unaccounted for, he said.

"This is a terrible tragedy, a time of great innocence and joy interrupted by the horror of that eruption," Morrison told reporters in Sydney.