Volcanic unrest

Volcanic eruption at Whakaari / White Island

Monday 16 Dec - last updated 1:57 pm

National Emergency Management Agency Update

1:57pm, 16 December 2019


The National Emergency Management Agency is coordinating the all-of-government response to the volcanic eruption at Whakaari / White Island. There are more than 20 government and support agencies providing assistance to the all-of-government response.

A minute’s silence will be observed at 2.11pm on Monday 16 December in honour of the victims of the Whakaari White Island eruption. This will be exactly one week after the eruption on 9 December.


Update on the status of the recovery efforts

All response agencies are absolutely committed to the recovery and return of the two remaining bodies to their loved ones.

A land and water based search was conducted on and in areas near Whakaari on Sunday, 15 December in an attempt to locate any possible victims remaining on the island. No bodies were found.

Navy and Police are continuing the search for the two remaining victims on or in the vicinity of Whakaari / White Island today (16 December).

We have always anticipated recovering all bodies from the island, and we remain deeply committed to that goal, to allow families some closure.

NZDF resources and personnel, Navy divers and the Police National Dive Squad remain in Whakatane to assist however they are required.

Navy and Police divers are working together and recommenced searching in the area this afternoon.

Meanwhile, the process of identifying victims and releasing bodies to their loved ones is ongoing in Auckland.

Police will continue to release the names of those who have died as soon as they are able to.

Latest updates from NZ Police are available at: https://www.police.govt.nz/major-events/whakaariwhite-island-eruption


Status of those affected by the eruption

There were 47 people on the Island at the time of the eruption.

As at 0830 hours 16 December:

  • 14 people remain in hospital across New Zealand.
  • 3 people have been discharged from hospital in New Zealand.
  • 2 people remain unaccounted for on or in the vicinity of White Island.
  • 13 people have been transferred from New Zealand to Australia (one of whom has since died and is included below).
  • 16 people have been confirmed deceased – this includes 15 people who died in New Zealand and one person in Australia.

All our thoughts are with the families and loved ones affected by last Monday’s tragic eruption on Whakaari / White Island. A key focus since the eruption has been on supporting the victims, their families and friends.


Volcanic activity on Whakaari/White Island

GNS Science published the twelfth Volcanic Alert Bulletin on Monday 16 December that shows the calculated likelihood of another eruption within the next 24 hrs (from 11:50am Monday) has decreased slightly since Sunday to 30-40%.  This decrease in likelihood means another eruption is unlikely over the next 24 hours.

Aerial observations on Saturday and Sunday (14 and 15 December) have provided additional information about the three main vents.  One of which is producing transparent high temperature gas, indicative of a shallow magma source that is within a few tens of metres below the surface.

As the wind shifts to become more northerly today, gas might be noticed in the Ōpōtiki to Whakatāne area, as occurred on many occasions during the 1976 to 2000 eruptive period.

No further eruptions have occurred since Monday 9 December, however the situation remains highly volatile. Should an explosive eruption produce an ash cloud, the anticipated affect on the mainland is considered to be very low.

The Volcanic Alert Level remains at Level 2. The NZ Volcanic Alert Level System reflects the current state of the volcano and does not provide a forecast of future activity.

GNS Science has produced a map (see below) showing GNS staff access zones as at 13 December 2019. More information about these maps is available on the GNS Science website.

Read the latest Volcanic Alert Bulletin (#12)

Answers to frequently asked questions about Whakaari White Island are available on the Geonet website.


Support and help available

The National Emergency Management Agency has developed an all-of-Government factsheet on support and information available to people affected by the emergency.

Download the Factsheet (updated 13 December 2019) (505kb)


New Zealand Map, Bay of Plenty highlighted
Bay of Plenty region