Deadly volcano that killed 22 people could erupt again 'at any time' experts say
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Featured Image Credit: John Poyser/Alamy Stock Photo/Netflix
The deadly New Zealand volcano that killed 22 in one of the most devastating natural disasters in the country’s history has a ‘high’ chance of erupting again, experts have said.
The Whakaari volcano on New Zealand's White Island has had its alert level escalated to Level Two, the highest of any of the country’s active volcanoes and the highest possible alert level given to a volcano before it erupts.
Essentially, this means that the island is displaying ‘moderate to heightened volcanic unrest’.
The volcano was recently the subject of a new Netflix documentary The Volcano: Rescue from Whakaari, which detailed the events during and after a devastating eruption at the popular tourist destination on 9 December 2019.
A group of 47 tourists were taking part in a guided tour of the island when the volcano erupted, with the explosive blast having devastating consequences as ash was thrown 12,000 feet into the air, along with several tourists positioned right next to the active vent.
The victims of the disaster included two people whose bodies have never been recovered, while many of the survivors were left needing intensive care for severe burn injuries.
Many of the victims had to survive an excruciating 90-minute boat journey after being rescued to get back to the shore to receive medical attention, while commercial pilots also helped with the rescue efforts in their own aircraft.
Stephanie Browitt, one of the visitors who survived the fatal eruption, ended up in a coma for two weeks and was left with severe burns on 70 percent of her body.
Meanwhile, Jesse Langford, who was 19 at the time and sustained burns covering 90 percent of his body, lost his parents and 17-year-old sister in the eruption.
Three years on, one expert has claimed another deadly eruption isn’t off the cards.
Shane Cronin, volcanologist at University of Aukland, said the chance of Whakaari erupting again was very likely.
He explained to Newsweek: "The monitoring of Whakaari has remained steady but is also reduced because no one has been able to visit to service the seismic stations since 2019.
"The next eruption could happen at any time, given that the volcano can be triggered by several different mechanisms, both internal [new magma] or external [sealing of the top], both of which are highly unpredictable."
Cronin also warned that its next eruption could be even bigger than the 2019 disaster.
“The scale of the 2019 eruption was very small. Whakaari can produce eruptions of this size or much larger,” he explained.
“On the Volcanic Explosivity Index Scale this eruption was a VEI 0 or possibly 1. This volcano could produce eruptions up to VEI 4-5.”
The island has been closed to visitors since the 2019 eruption.
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