Five people have been confirmed dead with up to 50 people unaccounted for after an active volcano on New Zealand’s White Island (Whakaari) erupted. Almost all patients who were injured in the deadly eruption have suffered extensive burns to their bodies and lungs, as questions mount over the circumstances surrounding the tragedy that has left at least five people dead. 

A handful of licensed operators take tourists to White Island, via boat or helicopter, subject to the weather and volcanic activity. On tours, hard hats must be worn at all times, and gas masks to reduce irritation from the gases. With every burns unit in the country at full capacity as medical staff are trying to do all they can to treat the severe injuries, out of 31 people still in hospital, 27 had burns to at least 30 per cent of their bodies and many have inhalation burns that require airway support, said the Ministry of Health spokesman Pete Watson.

Why were tourist even allowed near the volcano?

Speaking at a news conference, New Zealand Deputy Commissioner John Tims Said a criminal investigation would be conducted into the circumstances surrounding the eruption in the coming days. The police retraction, two hours later in regards to same- that investigation is being conducted on behalf of the coroner- comes amid a nationwide discussion on culpability and whether visitors should have been allowed on the active volcano in the first place. 

Prime Minister Arden paid tribute to the people who tried to help visitors caught up in the eruption on Tuesday morning stating “those who undertook a risky effort in the immediate aftermath did so in an incredibly courageous way. Although the search and rescue operation was the immediate priority, bigger questions around the disaster would have to be answered in the coming weeks”. 

With authorities on Tuesday saying that there is a 50 per cent chance of a second eruption of the same size or smaller in the next 24 hours, emergency services have been told to hold off searching the areas due to dangerous conditions.

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