10 December 2019 08:37
Get the biggest daily news stories by email Subscribe Thank you for subscribing We have more newsletters Show me See our privacy notice Could not subscribe, try again later Invalid Email New Zealand police have announced a criminal investigation into the deaths of tourists after a volcano erupted killing as many as 13 people. Five deaths were confirmed after Monday's eruption on the White Island. Eight other people are feared dead, but unstable conditions on the island are hindering a search. About 47 people were on the island at the time, and some of those evacuated suffered critical burns. New Zealand police said on Tuesday morning the eight people still unaccounted for after the eruption are likely to be dead.
John Tims, New Zealand Police Deputy Commissioner, announced the investigation as questions emerged over why tour groups were allowed into the volcano zone despite scientists' warnings of increased activity. "I would strongly suggest that there is no one that has survived on the island," he told reporters in Wellington. (Image: INSTAGRAM @ALLESSANDROKAUFFMANN) White Island, off the country's North Island in the Bay of Plenty, erupted with a large plume of ash and jets of scalding steam on Monday while dozens of people explored New Zealand's most active volcano. "I can confirm now that we will commence a criminal investigation into the circumstances of the death and injuries on White Island," Mr Tims told a press conference, adding the probe would run parallel to an investigation by WorkSafe New Zealand. New Zealand police said five people were confirmed dead, with at least eight more missing and feared dead. The UK High Commissioner to New Zealand, Laura Clarke, confirmed two of the 31 people still in hospital were from Britain. It was not clear if more British tourists had been affected. "We are supporting the family of two British women who have been hospitalised in New Zealand," Ms Clarke tweeted. A seven-year-old boy and a couple who recently married are among at least eight tourists unaccounted for. Newlyweds James and Madeleine Whitehouse, from Brisbane, have been listed as missing. They only married in September. Anthony and Kristine Langford and their two teenage children are also missing, as is holiday maker Winona Langford, 17 and her brother Jesse, 19. Amy Miall and partner Mathew Thomas, Jason Griffiths, 33, and tour guide Tipene Maangi have not yet been found. A missing American couple, Matt and Lauren Urey, were airlifted to different hospitals to treat their burns. A paramedic who flew to help victims of the New Zealand volcanic eruption said on Tuesday what he saw was a "shocking experience", likening the scene on White Island to the recent TV drama mini-series "Chernobyl". (Image: Michael Schade/AFP via Getty Ima) "Everything was just blanketed in ash. It was quite an overwhelming feeling," said Russell Clark. The intensive care paramedic works with the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter emergency service, which was sent to Whakatane to assist in the rescue efforts. Whakatane, on the North Island's east coast, is the main base for tours to White Island, about 50 km (30 miles) off the coast. Clark said they had received reports of a number of casualties and multiple patients in boats as they flew to the island, and saw a heavily damaged helicopter as they arrived there. "We were getting status updates so we knew there were high-acuity patients, very, very critical patients," he said. (Image: Facebook) "We didn't find any survivors on the island. It would've been quite traumatic for them." Around 30 people were earlier evacuated from the island, many with burns. Five people died and a further eight were missing, presumed dead a day after the eruption. Tourists from Australia, the United States, Britain, China and Malaysia as well as New Zealanders were among the missing and injured, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told the media earlier.