The death toll from this month’s volcanic eruption in New Zealand has risen to 19 after police said that another person died at an Auckland hospital on Sunday night.
There were 47 people visiting the tourist destination of Whakaari, also known as White Island, when the volcano erupted on 9 December, killing 13 people initially and leaving more than two dozen others hospitalised with severe burns. The latest victim is the sixth person to die in hospitals in New Zealand and Australia in the two weeks since the eruption.
Two of the victims’ bodies have not been recovered after authorities believe they were washed out to sea in a storm soon after the eruption. Helicopter pilots and boat operators helped the injured off the island immediately after the eruption, but emergency services did not return to the island to recover bodies until four days later because they considered that the site remained too dangerous.
In a brief statement, police said they had been told of the latest death at Middlemore Hospital on Sunday night. The victim’s name is yet to be released.
Many of those killed and injured were Australian tourists who had been traveling aboard the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Ovation of the Seas. Among those hospitalised were honeymooners Lauren Urey, 32, and Matthew Urey, 36, from Richmond, Virginia.
White Island is the tip of an undersea volcano about 30 miles off New Zealand’s North Island and was a popular tourist destination before the eruption. It’s unclear if the privately owned island will ever be reopened for tourist visits.
Many people have questioned why tourists were still allowed on the island after New Zealand’s GeoNet seismic monitoring agency raised the volcano’s alert level on 18 November from one to two on a scale where five represents a major eruption.
New Zealand authorities are investigating the circumstances around the disaster.
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