New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Saturday that the country will observe a one minute’s silence nationwide on December 16 for the victims of the White Island volcanic eruption.
Ardern further said, “Wherever you are in New Zealand, or around the world, this is a moment we can stand alongside those who have lost loved ones in this extraordinary tragedy”.
“Together we can express our sorrow for those who have died and been hurt and our support for their grieving families and friends”, Ardern added.
The minute’s silence at 2.11 p.m. will be exactly a week after the eruption that took place on December 9 and claimed the lives of 16 people.
Meanwhile, the operation to search and recover the last two victims who remain missing continued in the waters around White Island on Saturday morning.
On Monday, New Zealand police confirmed at least five people have been killed and more fatalities were likely after an island volcano popular with tourists erupted that also left stranded.
The country’s National Emergency Management Agency described the eruption as “moderate”, although a thick plume of white ash could be seen for miles around.
Several helicopters and aircraft were seen in the area and survivors were pulled off the island in tour boats.
White Island is about 50 kilometres (30 miles) offshore in the picturesque Bay of Plenty and is popular with adventurous tourists willing to don hard hats and gas masks.
At least one group, four tourists and one pilot, who flew to the island on a Volcanic Air helicopter were accounted for, despite landing shortly before the eruption.
“It had landed on the island. What happened after that we don’t know, but we know that all five made it back to Whakatane on one of the tourist boats,” a company spokesman told news agency AFP.
White Island is New Zealand’s most active volcano cone and about 70 per cent of it is underwater, according to government agency GeoNet. Around 10,000 people visit the volcano every year. It has erupted frequently over the last half-century, most recently in 2016.
In August of that year, the New Zealand Defence Force airlifted a 2.4-tonne shipping container onto the island to serve as an emergency shelter in case of an eruption.