Chilling Photo Shows Tourists In White Island Crater Moments Before Eruption
A chilling photograph has emerged that shows a group of tourists walking through the crater of the volcano that erupted suddenly on New Zealand's White Island yesterday.
The image, in which those in the volcanic crater have no idea that an eruption is imminent, serves as a potent reminder of how unexpected and devastating the event was.
Five people have been confirmed dead after the incident, with eight more people missing and presumed dead.
The photograph, taken seconds before the blast, was captured by an agency called GeoNet that is responsible for monitoring the geological activity and hazards in New Zealand, as well as offering information and advice to the public.
They've got seismometers, UV spectrometers and cameras trained on White Island at all times, and this one - positioned at the rim of the crater - captured the group of unsuspecting and unprepared people walking a trail through there at around 2.10pm local time.
One minute later, the eruption took place.
After the event, the images that followed showed an empty crater, while the floor was black with ash.
Volcanologist Geoff Kilgour said: "We are aware that people were on the island immediately before the eruption and we express our concern for their safety.
"Ash has covered the main crater floor, as seen in our webcam images."
GeoNet has since ceased publishing the images from this webcam.
In the aftermath, the search for life on the island continues. However, aerial reconnaissance undertaken earlier today discovered 'no signs of life'.
The volcano erupted at 2.11pm yesterday. Two explosions fired a columns of ash as high as 3,600 metres into the atmosphere.
Estimates suggest that around 47 people were on or around White Island at that time. Because of the grim photograph we've now seen, we know that about a dozen or so of those people were actually inside the crater.
Thirty-eight of the people on or near the island were from Royal Caribbean's Ovation of the Seas cruise ship. The ship departed from Sydney earlier this month.
In a statement, the cruise company said: "We can confirm that a number of our guests were touring the island today.
"We will offer all possible assistance to our guests and local authorities. Please keep all those affected in your prayers."
Thirty-one people are now in hospital being treated for burns. Twenty-seven of those have burns to 30 percent of their bodies, and not all are expected to survive.
The patients are aged between 13 and 72 years old
Dr Pete Watson, from the Waikato and Middlemore Hospital, said: "Not all of the (burns) patients will survive.
"There's many who have suffered inhalation injuries, damage to lungs, so they're requiring airway support. At this stage, that's the majority of the people who are in the hospitals."
New Zealand police has launched a criminal investigation into the disaster. Scientists estimate that there is around a 50 percent chance of a smaller or similar sized eruption taking place within the next 24 hours.
Topics: World News