NZ holds 1-minute’s silence for volcano victims

Wellington, Dec 16 (IANS) A one minute silence was on Monday observed all across New Zealand to remember the victims of Whakaari/White Island volcano, which claimed at least 16 lives after it erupted last week.

The minute of silence was held at 2.11 p.m. (local time), the same time the volcano erupted on December 9, reports Efe news.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her Cabinet paid tribute to the victims, while the Whakatane community gathered in the bay overlooking Whakaari/White Island to pay homage, joined by many people in other parts of the country.

Whakaari suddenly erupted when 47 people – 24 Australians, two Britons, four Germans, five New Zealanders, nine Americans, two Chinese and a Malaysian – were on a hiking trip on the privately-owned island located 40 km north of Whakatane on New Zealand’s North Island.

Sixteen people have been confirmed dead, with the death of an Australian national on Sunday.

Also on Monday, New Zealand Police released the names of four identified victims. They are Australians Jessica Richards, 20, Jason David Griffiths, 33, Martin Berend Hollander, 48, and Kristine Elizabeth Langford, 45.

They add to those already identified: New Zealander Tipene James Te Rangi Ataahua Maangi, 24, and Australians Berend Lawrence Hollander, 16, Matthew Robert Hollander, 13, Anthony James Langford, 51, Karla Michelle Mathews, 32, Zoe Ella Hosking, 15, and Gavin Brian Dallow, 53.

Fourteen people remain hospitalized, most of them in critical condition with severe burns, at medical centres in New Zealand, while another 12 continue to fight for their lives in Australia.

Police have opened an investigation to determine responsibility for the casualties, including tour operators who organize trips to the island, which received more than 17,500 visitors in 2018.

The 321-metre-high Whakaari, 70 per cent of which is below sea level, is considered one of New Zealand’s most active volcanoes and a tourist attraction.

Located at the southeastern end of the Pacific Ring of Fire, Whakaari last erupted in 2016 without causing 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.

–IANS
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