Urgent warning as deadly volcano that killed 22 tourists in 2019 ‘could have bigger eruption at any time, claims expert
THE DEADLY Whakaari volcano that killed 22 tourists in 2019 could erupt again at any time and be even more disastrous, experts claim.
The devastating blast on White Island was one of the deadliest natural disasters in New Zealand’s history, and the chilling warnings follow an escalation in its alert level.
It is currently at Alert Level Two, which is higher than any of New Zealand’s other active volcanoes.
It is also the highest possible alert for a volcano, before it erupts.
Pictures from three years ago, show plumes of smoke that followed the lethal eruption that scarred many tourists.
There were 47 visitors on the island at the time, with almost half of them not surviving the blast.
According to Shane Cronin, volcanologist at University of Aukland, the threat of Whakaari erupting again was very likely.
He told Newsweek: “The monitoring of Whakaari has remained steady but is also reduced because no one has been able to visit to service the seismic stations since 2019.
“The next eruption could happen at any time, given that the volcano can be triggered by several different mechanisms, both internal [new magma] or external [sealing of the top], both of which are highly unpredictable.”
The alert scale runs from level one to five, and level two means the volcanic island is showing signs of “moderate to heightened volcanic unrest”.
Cronin said the next blast on the small island could be a lot worse.
He said: “The scale of the 2019 eruption was very small, Whakaari can produce eruptions of this size or much larger.
“On the Volcanic Explosivity Index Scale this eruption was a VEI zero or possibly one.
“This volcano could produce eruptions up to VEI four to five.”
Before the devastating eruption in 2019, the volcano erupted multiple times.
Between December 1975 and September 2000, it erupted continuously before erupting again in 2012 and 2016.
While the volcano island has not erupted since 2019, Whakaari continues to display constant low-level volcanic activity.