Sydney, Australia – Two people who were injured in the recent eruption of the Whakaari volcano in northeastern New Zealand died overnight at hospital, taking the death toll to 16, authorities reported.
So far, the police have confirmed the deaths of eight people, while another eight remain missing, but authorities have said the latter have virtually no chance of survival.
The total number of deaths could still increase given that there are 20 people injured, most of them in a serious condition.
The recent two deaths were that of two brothers, aged 13 and 16, from Australia.
New Zealand police on Wednesday released the names and nationalities of nine of the 14 people who are believed to have died after the eruption of the Whakaari volcano on White Island on Monday.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said at a press conference that they had started the process of transferring five injured Australians and they hoped to carry out another seven evacuations in the next 24 hours.
On Wednesday, geological activity control group GeoNet warned that volcanic activity on Whakaari Island had increased significantly, and that the alert level remained at 3 on a scale of 5.
As a result, the authorities have not been able to return to the island, owing to safety reasons.
Police Minister Stuart Nash told the media that their priority was to get the victims out of the island but they also had to evaluate the risks.
On its part, GeoNet warned of a 40- to 60-percent chance of a fresh eruption in the next 24 hours.
The first volcanic eruption occurred on Monday afternoon when 47 tourists were visiting the privately-owned island, which is located 48 kilometers (about 30 miles) to the northeast off the coast of North Island.
Among the 47 tourists were people of various nationalities: 24 Australians, nine Americans, five New Zealanders, four Germans, two Britons, two Chinese and one Malaysian.
Whakaari – a 321 meter-high volcano, which has 70 percent of its structure hidden below sea level – is considered one of New Zealand’s most active volcanoes and is a major tourist attraction.
Located at the southeastern end of the Pacific Ring of Fire, Whakaari last erupted in 2016 without causing any fatalities.
The deadliest incident at the site occurred in 1914 when 10 miners died as a result of a landslide caused by the collapse of part of the volcano’s crater. EFE-EPA
New Zealand’s embattled Health Minister David Clark resigned on Thursday (July 2) after security slip-ups at quarantine facilities where the coronavirus was detected just days after officials declared it had been eliminated from the country.
Clark was also under fire for personally breaching strict lockdown rules twice earlier in the year, by taking his family on a beach trip and driving to a mountain biking track.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who had earlier refused calls to sack Clark, citing his critical role in the country’s response to the pandemic, said she agreed with his decision.
Recent opinion polls have Ardern’s Labour Party far ahead of its main rival National Party, putting it on track to win a Sept. 19 general election, but public confidence in her government has been undermined by a series of blunders.
Ardern had declared in early June that New Zealand had eliminated coronavirus, although she warned there would almost certainly be new cases, as she lifted social distancing restrictions.
Just days later it was revealed that two women who arrived from Britain who were allowed to leave quarantine early on compassionate grounds later tested positive for the virus.
Ardern appointed Education Minister Chris Hipkins as interim health minister until the September election, after which she said she would consider a permanent replacement. (Reuters)
New Zealand confirmed on Tuesday (June 16) that it has two new cases of the coronavirus, both related to recent travel from the UK, ending a 24-day streak of no new infections in the country.
According to New Zealand Director-General of Health, Dr. Ashley Bloomfield, the two women, in their 30s and 40s, are from the same family, and were allowed out of their 14-day mandated quarantine due to “compassionate reasons”.
New Zealand lifted all social and economic restrictions except border controls last week, after declaring it had no new or active cases of the coronavirus, one of the first countries in the world to return to pre-pandemic normality.
However, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern warned that new cases may come up in the future as New Zealanders return home, and some others were allowed in under special conditions. (Reuters)
Life for New Zealanders returned to normal on Tuesday (June 9) as the government lifted all social distancing restrictions except for border controls, after declaring it was free of the coronavirus.
Cafes in New Zealand’s capital of Wellington were seen packed with customers, and public transportation also resumed at full capacity.
New Zealand is one of the first countries in the world to return to pre-pandemic normality, with public and private events, the retail and hospitality industries and all public transport allowed to resume without the distancing rules still in place across much of the world.
The reopening comes after months of restrictions, including about seven weeks of a strict lockdown in which most businesses were shut and everyone except essential workers had to stay home. (Reuters)
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