New Zealand police today admitted at least 14 people were killed by the eruption of a volcano on an island in New Zealand, according to a new provisional report.
The latest balance, which had been announced this morning, referred to the existence of five dead and eight missing.
At a press conference today, police confirmed the deaths of five people and said they had already considered eight others dead since the incident. During the night, authorities also confirmed the death of one of the injured, who was at Auckland Hospital.
Police have already announced that they will open a criminal investigation to determine whether tour operators have been responsible for the deaths caused by the eruption of the Whakaari volcano.
The threat level of the volcano was raised last week, raising the question whether tourists should have been allowed to visit White Island, also called Whakaari, in northern New Zealand.
"We are going to open a criminal investigation into the circumstances under which people died and were injured," New Zealand Deputy Police Commissioner John Tims told a news conference.
"We cannot say 100% that everyone is dead, but there is strong evidence that no one is left alive on the island," said John Tims.
"This morning, efforts are being concentrated on trying to recover the bodies, ensuring that the police can safely do so," said Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, admitting that none of the flights made on the island detected any sign of life.
The missing and wounded include tourists from Australia, the United States, the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia, as well as New Zealanders who guided them.
"Forty-seven people were on the island" and 31 are currently hospitalized, police spokesman Bruce Bird said.
The eruption, which occurred at 14:11 on Monday (1:11 am in Lisbon), released a thick cloud of white smoke at a height of 3.6 kilometers.
Camera footage at the site showed a group of half a dozen people walking through the crater a few seconds before the Whakaari eruption.
On December 3, GeoNet's geological activity control group warned that the Whakaari volcano had entered a “period of eruptive activity”, although it pointed out that the situation was not a “direct danger to visitors”.
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