Questions on White Island eruption remain to be answered: New Zealand PM

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WELLINGTON, Dec. 16 (Xinhua) — Questions need to be asked and answered with regard to the casualties caused by the White Island volcanic eruption, said New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday.

“There remain now questions to be asked and questions to be answered,” Ardern reiterated during her weekly press conference on Monday afternoon, “What I want to make sure is we answer all the questions we need to answer, but that we don’t duplicate.”

New Zealand workplace safety watchdog Worksafe and the coroner have both launched investigations into the incident. It is understood that the Worksafe investigation is expected to take up to a year.

A decision on whether there will be further investigation into the case would be made next year, said Ardern.

Meanwhile, New Zealand government will allocate 5 million New Zealand dollars (3.3 million U.S. dollars) to small businesses that are affected by the incident in Whakatane region, gateway to White Island.

On Monday afternoon, people across New Zealand observed a one-minute silence on Monday in honor of the victims of the White Island volcanic eruption.

The minute’s silence at 2:11 p.m. local time was exactly one week after the deadly eruption started on Dec. 9.

“This is a moment we can stand alongside those who have lost loved ones in this extraordinary tragedy,” Ardern said.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison also said online that the observation was to acknowledge those injured and killed in the terrible tragedy, and to offer support to their loved ones.

Altogether 47 people were on the White Island at the time of the eruption. The devastated volcanic eruption has already caused 16 deaths and two missing. Fourteen people are still remaining in New Zealand hospital with 11 in critical conditions, confirmed Ardern.

A recovery operation started from last Friday and recovered six bodies from the volcanic island. However, both underwater and land-based searches throughout the weekend were not able to locate the two bodies. An aerial search also resumed on Monday.

New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said on Monday that the police would continue to search for those two people as long as there’s a possibility of finding them.

The two Chinese nationals injured in the eruption had recovered consciousness and were in stable condition.

The White Island, a volcanic island, is a famous tourist attraction which people can explore by boat or by helicopter. But now all tourist trips to the island have been suspended by the authorities.

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