White Island is New Zealand’s most active volcano, located on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, in the Bay of Plenty. In tragic circumstances, on Monday the volcano erupted leaving visiting tourists with critical injuries. Six people have been confirmed dead,with some still missing and many unaccounted for. Fears are there is no life left on the island.
Paramedics who flew over in a rescue helicopter described the scene as a ‘nuclear disaster’. A helicopter pilot who rushed towards the scene to save people described the horrific scenes to The Guardian,“We found people dead, dying and alive but in various states of consciousness.”.
Questions are beginning to emerge following the eruption. New Zealand’s official earthquake information body GeoNet upgraded White Island’s alert level from Level 1 to Level 2 three weeks before. Level 2 is the highest alert level before an eruption takes place, indicating heightened volcanic unrest with the potential for eruption hazards. A geologist says there was “very little warning”that the volcano was poised to erupt. Should the highest level before an eruption be a sign?
Tourists on the Island were from the Royal Caribbean and Ovation of the Seas cruises, other cruise members recount they were not warned of the increased dangeron White Island. Are the cruise companies at fault for not highlighting the risk of visiting White Island? Was it the responsibility of New Zealand’s tourism to enforce the increased risk be emphasised?
The mayor of Whakantāne wants tourism of White Island to continue. But, questions need to be answered before tourism resumes.