Monday 27 January 2020

It was like 'Chernobyl': Rescuers tell of horror after New Zealand White Island volcano eruption

This handout photograph courtesy of Michael Schade shows White Island Tour operators rescuing people minutes after the volcano on New Zealand's White Island erupted on December 9, 2019. - Photo by HANDOUT/Michael Schade/AFP via Getty Images
This handout photograph courtesy of Michael Schade shows White Island Tour operators rescuing people minutes after the volcano on New Zealand's White Island erupted on December 9, 2019. - Photo by HANDOUT/Michael Schade/AFP via Getty Images

Hayley Dixon

Rescuers have told how they tried to save dying tourists covered in ash after the New Zealand volcano erupted in scenes compared to the 'Chernobyl' television drama.

One of those rescued from White Island in the wake of the eruption died in hospital yesterday, bringing the death toll to six, with a further eight missing presumed dead.

Two British women are among the 30 in hospital, with medics warning that many have suffered burns to more than 30pc of their bodies and are still in critical conditions.

Police believed that there were 47 people on the island when tragedy stuck and alongside the two Britons there were 24 visitors from Australia, nine from the US, five from New Zealand, four from Germany, two from China and one person from Malaysia.

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The initial five dead were understood to include Hayden Marshall-Inman, an experienced guide for White Island Tours, alongside the Malaysian and three from Australia.

Questions have been raised as to why visitors were allowed on the island after seismic monitoring experts raised the volcano's alert level last month.

Deadly: The eruption from the White Island volcano rises to 3,660m. Photo: INSTAGRAM @ALLESSANDROKAUFFMANN/via REUTERS
Deadly: The eruption from the White Island volcano rises to 3,660m. Photo: INSTAGRAM @ALLESSANDROKAUFFMANN/via REUTERS

"These questions must be answered," Jacinda Ardern, the country's prime minister, said in parliament as police announced an investigation.

Local tourism authorities market White Island, or Whakaari in the Maori language, as "the world's most accessible active marine volcano" and roughly 10,000 people visit every year.

A man reacts as he speaks on a mobile phone near a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019. Multiple people were killed in mass shootings at two mosques full of people attending Friday prayers, as New Zealand police warned people to stay indoors as they tried to determine if more than one gunman was involved.(AP Photo/Mark Baker)
A man reacts as he speaks on a mobile phone near a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019. Multiple people were killed in mass shootings at two mosques full of people attending Friday prayers, as New Zealand police warned people to stay indoors as they tried to determine if more than one gunman was involved.(AP Photo/Mark Baker)
AOS (Armed Offenders Squad) push back members of the public following a shooting at the Masjid Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand,, March 15, 2019. REUTERS/SNPA/Martin Hunter
A view of the Al Noor Mosque on Deans Avenue in Christchurch, New Zealand, taken in 2014. REUTERS/SNPA/Martin Hunter
Police stand outside a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019. Multiple people were killed in mass shootings at two mosques full of people attending Friday prayers, as New Zealand police warned people to stay indoors as they tried to determine if more than one gunman was involved. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
Police escort witnesses away from a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019. Multiple people were killed in mass shootings at two mosques full of people attending Friday prayers, as New Zealand police warned people to stay indoors as they tried to determine if more than one gunman was involved. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
A police officer photographs witnesses near a mosque in central Christchurch, New Zealand, Friday, March 15, 2019. Multiple people were killed in mass shootings at two mosques full of people attending Friday prayers, as New Zealand police warned people to stay indoors as they tried to determine if more than one gunman was involved. (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
A still image taken from video circulated on social media, apparently taken by gunman Brenton Tarrant and posted online live as the attack unfolded, shows him driving in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 15, 2019. Photo: Reuters
An injured person is loaded into an ambulance following a shooting at the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 15, 2019.
Grieving members of the public following a shooting at the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 15, 2019
New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks on live television following fatal shootings at two mosques in central Christchurch, New Zealand March 15, 2019, in this still image taken from video.
AOS (Armed Offenders Squad) member following a shooting at the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 15, 2019. REUTERS/SNPA/Martin Hunter
Members of a family react outside the mosque following a shooting at the Al Noor mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, March 15, 2019. REUTERS/SNPA/Martin Hunter

Mark Law, who runs a company that runs tours to the island but had not been flying that day, said that he scrambled two of his helicopters after they saw the smoke.

Mr Law told the 'Guardian': "We both landed in the centre of the island where we felt it was OK. It was ashing but we could deal with it. We went to assess everyone. We were moving around tending to people who were in real distress. We found people dead, dying and alive but in various states of unconsciousness."

Support: PM Jacinda Ardern meets rescuers. Photo: AP
Support: PM Jacinda Ardern meets rescuers. Photo: AP

The former soldier said: "The burns were horrific. A lot of the people could not talk. It was pretty quiet.

"They were covered in ash and dust. We were picking them up and skin was coming off in our hands."

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

Russell Clark, a paramedic who flew as part of the scramble to rescue tourists, said that the scene was like something out of "the 'Chernobyl' miniseries". (© Daily Telegraph London)

This handout photograph courtesy of Michael Schade shows the volcano on New Zealand's White Island spewing steam and ash moments after it erupted on December 9, 2019. Photo by HANDOUT/Michael Schade/AFP via Getty Images
This handout photograph courtesy of Michael Schade shows the volcano on New Zealand's White Island spewing steam and ash moments after it erupted on December 9, 2019. Photo by HANDOUT/Michael Schade/AFP via Getty Images
A man watches as a plume of steam is seen above White Island early morning off the coast of Whakatane, New Zealand, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019. A volcanic island in New Zealand erupted Monday Dec. 9 in a tower of ash and steam while dozens of tourists were exploring the moon-like surface, killing at least five people and leaving many more missing.(AP Photo/Mark Baker)
A man watches as a plume of steam is seen above White Island early morning off the coast of Whakatane, New Zealand, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019. A volcanic island in New Zealand erupted Monday Dec. 9 in a tower of ash and steam while dozens of tourists were exploring the moon-like surface, killing at least five people and leaving many more missing.(AP Photo/Mark Baker)
Smoke and ash rises from a volcano on White Island early in the morning on December 9, 2019 in Whakatane, New Zealand. Photo by John Boren/Getty Images
Smoke and ash rises from a volcano on White Island early in the morning on December 9, 2019 in Whakatane, New Zealand. Photo by John Boren/Getty Images

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