Scientists say another eruption of Whakaari / White Island is still likely

5:33 pm on 11 December 2019

Scientists say another eruption of Whakaari / White Island is still likely - meaning a mission to retrieve bodies on the island can't go ahead.

Whakaari / White Island

Whakaari / White Island. Photo: Supplied / Geonet

The latest calculations from GNS science show there is a medium likelihood of an eruption outside the vent area.

Data collected by monitoring equipment shows ground shaking is increasing and the Volcanic Alert Level remains at Level 3.

The alert was at 2 when the island erupted, killing and injuring dozens.

Civil Defence Emergency Management director Sarah Stuart-Black said the conditions meant an operation to recover the bodies on the island could not go ahead.

"This is an utterly tragic situation. We all agree that recovering bodies of the deceased from the island is an absolute imperative.

"However, the preservation of human life and the prevention of further human harm must be taken into account ... there is always a delicate balancing act when it comes to recovery operations of where risk to human life exists and right now the science tells us that this is just too high. I can assure you that risk is constantly being assessed."

Senior GNS volcanologist Graham Leonard said there was further escalation of the volcanic situation on the island overnight and this morning.

There was a 40-60 percent of another eruption in the next 24 hours and seismic tremors on the island were also increasing.

"In summary, yesterday, there was a high risk of eruption. Today, there is a higher risk of eruption," Leonard said.

GNS would provide an update of the situation on the island later this evening.

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