Devastating Volcanic Eruption in New Zealand


Ben Eskenazi

WHAKAARI ISLAND, NZ: This is most likely the view from one of the surrounding tourist boats, when the eruption erupted, immediately killing some unfortunate vacationers, taken completely off guard with piles of hot ash and air.

Jackson Chollman, Staff Writer

During early December in 2019, New Zealand’s Whakaari Island (White Island) erupted! This devastating volcano killed 16 people and severely burned 13. The unexpected eruption was so damaging to the families of the deceased since the ash, rain, and weather prevented any rescue or recovery attempt to be made for multiple days. The burn victims, which had almost 40% of the skin burnt, will require eight hours of extensive treatment. The reason this explosion was as damaging as it was may be because some tourists wanted the prime view of looking into the volcano and hiking on the crater moments before the eruption took place.

Local authorities said that “the bodies of a local guide and an Australian tourist who died on Whakaari are ‘in the hands of the sea’ and may never be recovered.” The search efforts were scaled down after days of bad weather. Deputy police commissioner Mike Clement said both missing bodies were in the sea, but sonar radar and divers had been unable to find them. The search is now being widened beyond Whakaari, also known as White Island, in line with tidal modelling. Both police and private helicopters are being used, before the search is reduced in a few days – a move the families had “accepted,” according to The Guardian. Obviously, it is a very hard matter to accept if you learned that you were unable to have a proper burial for your family member. Sophomore Julia Perry said she was “really sad and angry because it is the law enforcements responsibility to do their job and it shouldn’t be controlled by the weather. Losing a loved one is already hard enough.” It is such an inconvenience for the rescue teams because they are unable to properly do their jobs with unforeseen weather. If the search and rescue team had not called this mission off then their own safety would be in jeopardy.

When this devastating volcano erupted a few tourists were on the crater of the volcano moments before the explosion. This is a huge risk, even on a volcano that may not erupt, but a risk that some people take. In this case the view from the crater sadly turned out to be a deadly one costing people their lives. Senior Saphire Campbell said how it was “not very safe at all, but some people do it for a living, like taking pictures of the volcano.”

As soon as the victims could be rushed to hospitals, many struggled to regain consciousness and required skin grafts, which were used from dead corpses to keep the body alive since many victims had suffered burns across more than 40% of their bodies. Freshmen Raymond Tsai sees it “as a medical procedure that the doctors have to do what they need to in order to keep the victims alive.” An estimated “1.2 million square centimeters — roughly 1,292 square feet” of skin is needed desperately, according to The New York Times.

Overall the destruction on White Island left over a dozen tourists dead, and even more suffering severe burns in need of medical attention. With the turn of the decade upon us, a possibility of new, reliable, useful, and more accurate equipment so these natural disasters are not as fatal is most likely. It is sad to see how if the equipment of White Island had been more effective, that dozens of ruined lives would be able to be reversed.