Nov 29, 2020 - World

New Zealand authorities charge 13 parties over deadly volcano eruption

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks at the Prime Minister's Reception during the opening of New Zealand's 53rd Parliament on November 26, 2020 in Wellington, New Zealand.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at New Zealand's parliament in Wellington. Photo: Mark Tantrum Photography via Getty Images

New Zealand authorities laid safety violation charges Monday against 10 organizations and three individuals over the fatal Whakaari/White Island volcanic disaster last December, per a statement from the agency WorksSafe.

Details: WorksSafe declined to name those charged as they may seek name suppression in court. But Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said government agencies GNS Science, which monitors volcanic activity, and the National Emergency Management Agency were among those charged over the "horrific tragedy" that killed 22 people.

The big picture: 47 people were on the island when it erupted, including New Zealanders and tourists from the U.S., Australia, the U.K., China, Germany and Malaysia. All "suffered serious injuries and trauma," WorkSafe Chief Executive Phil Parkes said in a statement.

  • He said they had "the reasonable expectation that there were appropriate systems in place to ensure they made it home healthy and safe."
  • The 10 groups face charges that carry a maximum fine of NZ$1.5 million (US$1.06 million). The trio, charged as directors or individuals required to exercise due diligence on health and safety obligations, face charges with a maximum fine of $300,000. They're all due to appear in the Auckland District Court on Dec. 15.

Of note: Parks stressed that the WorkSafe investigation related to parties taking tourists to the island.

  • It did not focus on the rescue and recovery of victims following the eruption, which may be the subject of other proceedings, such as a coronial inquest.

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