Wellington. December 9, 2019 He burned himself in the memories of many New Zealanders. About a year ago, Whakaari, a volcano on White Island off the coast of North Island of New Zealand, erupted. At the time of the eruption, there were 47 people on the island – vacationing on the cruise ship “Ovation of the Seas”, which visited the island on its program, as well as some local tour guides. Among the visitors were four Germans, as well as visitors from China, the United States and Great Britain. 22 people died in hospital during the outbreak or at a later time. The last victim, a German tourist, was not severely injured until July, seven months after the outbreak. Many survivors still receive treatment to this day.
Work Safe New Zealand on Monday filed complaints against ten tour operators and organizations as well as three individuals after nearly a year of investigating the accident. In a statement, it said the tour operators to White Island were found not to be in compliance with statutory safety obligations. The volcano has been increasingly active for some time, but boats carrying tourists have gone there again and again. Only trained guides were allowed to enter the island. “This was an unexpected event, but that doesn’t mean it was unexpected. The protection agency said that the operators are obligated to protect the people in their care.
New Zealand: Recover the dead on the volcanic island of White Island
There is still a high risk of another volcanic eruption on White Island. © dpa
Criminal consequences too?
According to local media reports, organizations involved include White Island Tours, government agencies, GNS Science, and the National Emergency Management Agency (Nema). GNS Science is the New Zealand geological research agency that has determined the risk level for a volcano eruption. Grace is the nation’s disaster management agency.
The first hearing is scheduled for Auckland District Court in mid-December. The organizations face a fine of up to NZ $ 1.5 million, equivalent to about 880,000 euros. The three face a fine of up to $ 300,000. A separate investigation into the possibility of criminal charges such as manslaughter has not yet been completed.
“We just want everyone home.”
The volcanic eruption had rocked all of New Zealand. Smoke and ash were scattered at an altitude of more than 3,500 meters in the air. A special military unit was deployed to remove the dead from the island. In the days following the accident, he succeeded in rescuing six dead people from the volcanic island. Two other missing persons are believed to have been washed into the sea and that they can no longer be found. Although the procedure was extremely dangerous, New Zealand was keen to return their deceased family members to grieving relatives. “We just want everyone home,” said New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in an interview with Australian broadcaster ABC. Many of the victims came from Australia.
A few days after the accident, the question arose of who exactly is responsible for the safety of the tourists on White Island. At the time, it was said that New Zealand’s legal situation did not allow civil lawsuits to be filed against the tour operators who had brought tourists to the island. Local media wrote at the time that the New Zealand government accident compensation system covered the costs of treating injuries – including for foreigners – but victims or family members usually could not file a claim for negligence. Because of this legal status, the country’s “innovative adventure tourism” was able to develop in the first place, according to legal experts.