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Sixth person dies after New Zealand volcano eruption, police to launch criminal investigation

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, right, talks with first responders in Whakatane, New Zealand, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019.

New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, right, talks with first responders in Whakatane, New Zealand, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019.   | Photo Credit: AP

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Eight more people who remain missing are presumed dead after the White Island volcano erupted on Monday.

The death toll from New Zealand’s White Island volcano eruption rose to six late on Tuesday, after an injured person died in an Auckland hospital, police said.

“Police can confirm a further person has died following the eruption on Whakaari/White Island, bringing the official toll to six,” a police statement said.

Eight more people who remain missing are presumed dead after the volcano erupted on Monday.

New Zealand police on Tuesday announced a criminal investigation to probe how an eruption at the White Island volcano led to many deaths.

The threat level at the volcano had been raised in the week before Monday’s disaster, prompting questions about whether tour groups should have been allowed to visit the popular destination off the North Island coast.

“I can confirm now that we will commence a criminal investigation into the circumstances of the death and injuries on White Island,” deputy commissioner John Tims told reporters in Wellington.

Mr. Tims did not specify the subject of the investigation or what charges could be laid, saying only that the terms of reference were still being developed.

He said the investigation would run parallel to a probe conducted by the workplace watchdog Work Safety New Zealand.

Speaking before the investigation was announced, travel operator White Island Tours said it took safety responsibilities extremely seriously.

“We take our steer from (government geoscience agency) GNS, who send us a report telling us what the activity levels are, if it’s deemed level two, which it was yesterday,” chairman Paul Quinn told TVNZ.

Quinn said the company had taken visitors to White Island when the activity alert was at level two, which warns of “moderate to heightened volcanic unrest”.

He said two of the company’s guides were unaccounted for after the eruption.

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Printable version | Jan 18, 2020 11:20:00 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/sixth-person-dies-after-new-zealand-volcano-eruption-police-to-launch-criminal-investigation/article30267583.ece

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