New Zealand regulator charges 13 parties over White Island eruption tragedy

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WELLINGTON (Reuters) – New Zealand’s workplace regulator will file charges against 13 parties following an investigation into a volcanic eruption on White Island in 2019 which killed 22 people, state broadcaster 1NEWS said on Monday.

A surprise eruption on the White Island, also known by its Maori name of Whakaari, on Dec 9 last year, killed 22 people and injured dozens.

Majority of them were tourists who were part of a cruise ship that was travelling around New Zealand and were from countries like Australia, the United States and Malaysia. There were 47 people on the island when the volcano erupted.

Worksafe, New Zealand’s primary regulator for workplace related incidents, will charge 10 parties under the Health and Safety at Work Act which has a maximum fine of NZ$1.5 million ($1.06 million), the report said.

Three individuals would be charged as directors or individuals who were required to exercise due diligence to ensure the company meets its health and safety obligations. These charges each carry a maximum fine of $300,000, it added.

WorkSafe is not naming those charged as they may seek suppression orders in their first appearance in court on Dec 15, 1NEWS reported.

The coroner is conducting a separate inquiry into the incident. A coronial investigation is automatically triggered in the event of a sudden, violent or unnatural death.

At the time of the eruption questions were raised why people were allowed on the island, a popular destination for day-trippers, given there was reportedly a heightened risk of an eruption.

($1 = 1.4205 New Zealand dollars)

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