Disaster struck New Zealand on Monday, December 9, when the Whakaari, or White Island, volcano, 48 kilometres (30 miles) away from the Bay of Plenty, on the north island’s east coast, exploded into life. At the time of writing, six people are confirmed dead as a result of the blast, with three more expected to have lost their lives. The explosion at 2.15pm local time sent a plume of ash and debris 2.2 miles into the sky in one of the deadliest eruptions in New Zealand’s history.
However, experts are warning that this will not be the last of New Zealand’s volcanic activity, with the antipodean nation embedded on a volcanic hotspot.
The nation is situated right on top of the dreaded Ring of Fire – the largest and most active fault line in the world, stretching from New Zealand, around the east coast of Asia, over to Canada and the USA and all the way down to the southern tip of South America and causes more than 90 percent of the world’s earthquakes.
The plates which make up the Ring of Fire are so huge even the slightest shift results in massive tremors, volcano activity and tsunamis.
Because of this, experts warn there will be much more volcanic activity in the future.
Janine Krippner, a volcanologist and New Zealand native who works with the Smithsonian Institution’s Global Volcanism Program, told the Washington Post: “It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when and where.
“Having a true respect for all the hazards we have and how they contribute to society is really important.”
Robin Andrews, a doctor of experimental volcanology-turned-journalist, added: “New Zealand, especially its North Island, is just riddled with volcanoes.
“They’ve carved out one of the most naturally beautiful places on Earth, but at the same time, it’s prone to devastating earthquakes and horrific volcanic eruptions. It’s the price tag of that.”
Talking about Lake Taupo, the supervolcano situated in the heart of New Zealand which is known to be one of the most potentially dangerous in the world, Dr Andrews said: “It could be tens of thousands of years before anything happens again.
“It could happen tomorrow, or never. Everyone wants certainty in life, but when it comes to things like volcanoes, the inherent rule is: We don’t know.”
Police and rescue officials are still waiting to get to White Island following Monday’s eruption, with experts fearing further volcanic activity is yet to come.
Three people are still unaccounted for, but it is believed that they would not have survived.
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Police deputy commissioner John Timms said: “The chance of a further eruption is significant and it is too dangerous to return to the island.
“We are standing by and ready to go as soon as we can be confident that the risks on the island are manageable.
“Those deploying to the island will likely encounter serious physical and chemical hazards, for which we must be prepared.”
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