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White Island Emergency Shelter Failed To Save Lives During Volcano Tragedy

White Island Emergency Shelter Failed To Save Lives During Volcano Tragedy

A heavyweight bunker designed to protect tourists on White Island in New Zealand should a volcano erupt tragically failed to do its job.

The 2.4 ton fixture was installed on an old mining site three years ago as a safety precaution.

But when a volcano known as Whakaari erupted on Monday, leading to six deaths, eight unaccounted for and 30 casualties, the bunker remained unused.

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According to news.com.au, although it remains to be seen whether or not tourists were unable to reach the container in time, as it's situated at least 400 metres from the crater lake area, the tragedy has raised questions over the island's safety management plan.

White Island Flights operations manager George Walker said: "It's right at the end by the rocks, and I used to say to people on the flight I wonder about the logic of putting it there."

Meanwhile, Stuff reporter Brook Sabin who visited the island this year said: "I thought that would have been one of the most important pieces of information for us to know.

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"We were given gas masks - mainly for comfort - but no information on what to do in the event of an eruption.

"I thought it would have been standard for everyone on the island to know the emergency procedures.

"The information may have been in the disclaimer, but to be honest, I didn't read it - like most people I expect."

The shipping container was airlifted to the island by New Zealand's Defence Force back in 2016 as part of the Emergency Management program in Whakatane.

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At the time, there were high hopes for its capabilities as a safety measurement, with Clinton Naude, director of Emergency Management Bay of Plenty, saying: "The shipping container will also be used to store safety gear, spare clothing, food supplies and emergency and rescue items.

"We have been working closely with GNS Science, New Zealand Police, other partner-agencies and tour operators for some time to improve the safety of visitors to Whakaari/White Island.

"The placement of a container is another step towards ensuring we are better prepared."

Credit: GNS New Zealand
Credit: GNS New Zealand
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Reports state that roughly 47 visitors from around the world were visiting the area when the volcano erupted with two explosions in quick succession, meaning very few came out unscathed.

Of the 30 who are injured, 25 are in a critical condition while the other five are classed as stable but serious.

"There are a number of people in hospital who cannot communicate, they have significant burns not only to skin but internal organs," police minister Stuart Nash told Radio New Zealand.

"We wish them the best but we're not out of the woods yet, of that there's no doubt."

Topics: New Zealand, Safety, tourists, Volcano

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Daisy Phillipson

Daisy is a UK-based freelance journalist with too many opinions. She loves everything film and music-related and has a track record writing for Little White Lies, BWRC, and Film Daily. Contact her at [email protected]