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New Zealand volcano: Paramedic likens horror eruption site to TV series Chernobyl

Mirror logo Mirror 10/12/2019 Karishma Singh & Danya Bazaraa
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A paramedic who flew to help victims of the New Zealand volcanic eruption likened the scene to the recent TV drama mini-series 'Chernobyl'.

Russell Clark said what he saw on White Island was a "shocking experience" as "everything was just blanketed in ash."

He spoke after it was confirmed five people died and a further eight were missing, presumed dead a day after the eruption.

Mr Clark told Television New Zealand (TVNZ) network that seeing the site "was quite an overwhelming feeling".

Pictures: New Zealand volcano eruption

 

The intensive care paramedic works with the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter emergency service, which was sent to Whakatane to assist in the rescue efforts.

Mr Clark said they had received reports of a number of casualties and multiple patients in boats as they flew to the island, and saw a heavily damage helicopter as they arrived there.

a group of people standing in front of a building: People lay flowers in the aftermath of the volcano © DAVID ROWLAND/EPA-EFE/REX People lay flowers in the aftermath of the volcano

"We were getting status updates so we knew there were high-acuity patients, very, very critical patients," he said.

"We didn't find any survivors on the island. And it was...It would've been quite traumatic for them."

New Zealand police have launched an investigation but say it is not a criminal probe, despite earlier reports.

smoke coming out of the water with a mountain in the background: Smoke from the volcanic eruption pictured from a boat © INSTAGRAM @ALLESSANDROKAUFFMANN Smoke from the volcanic eruption pictured from a boat

Whakatane, on the North Island's east coast, is the main base for tours to White Island, about 50 km (30 miles) off the coast.

Around 30 people were earlier evacuated from the island, many with burns.

Tourists from Australia, the United States, Britain, China and Malaysia as well as New Zealanders were among the missing and injured, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has told media.

New Zealand police said today the eight people still unaccounted for are likely dead.

"I would strongly suggest that there is no one that has survived on the island," New Zealand Deputy Commission John Tims told reporters in Wellington.

a group of people standing in a room: New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (R) hugs a first responder © POOL/AFP via Getty Images New Zealand's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern (R) hugs a first responder

Victims of New Zealand's deadly volcanic eruption off White Island were covered in ash and appeared to have been badly burned, said a helicopter rescue pilot who flew them to hospital, as he recounted his experience on Tuesday.

"They were in a fairly serious condition," James Tayler, who flew some victims from Whakatane to hospitals in Auckland and Hamilton, said.

"They were pretty poorly ... but covered in ash, looking quite badly burned," said Tayler, adding that the ash had obscured the details of injuries.

a vase of flowers on a table: Floral tributes after at least five people died © DAVID ROWLAND/EPA-EFE/REX Floral tributes after at least five people died

Mr Tayler, who works with the Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter emergency service which joined the rescue effort, said: "The biggest hazard was the significant amount of dust still swirling in the air.

"The main concern would've been for any follow-up eruptions."

Tourists caught in the deadly blast were there despite a recent increase in volcanic activity, although experts said precise predictions on eruptions were all but impossible.

Geological hazard tracker GeoNet raised its alert level for the island near the middle of a six-point scale in mid-November because of an increase in volcanic activity. But tour companies were not required to keep their dozens of customers that day away from the volcano, operators and agencies say.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said the government would investigate the incident.

Drexel University volcanologist Vanderkluysen said: "I have to say that I'm very surprised to hear there were visitors there today, because scientists seem to have been well aware that White Island was entering a phase of heightened activity.

"I've been to White Island before, but I don't think I would have been comfortable being there today."

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