Gas explosion in New Zealand’s Christchurch injures several people
Robie de Guzman • July 20, 2019 • 1205
New Zealand emergency services evacuated residents near what they said was a suspected gas explosion in the South Island city of Christchurch on Friday (July 19) that left a house on fire and several people injured.
The city remains on edge four months after a lone gunman killed 51 people and wounded dozens in attacks on two Christchurch mosques in New Zealand’s worst peacetime mass shooting.
There was no indication that Friday’s blast had any wider security implications.
Police said in a statement that initial reports suggested that a number of people had been injured in the incident in the residential suburb of Northwood. Media reports said six people had been taken to hospital.
A house was on fire and police had closed roads and were carrying out evacuations following what they described as a “serious incident.” (REUTERS)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – The official death toll in New Zealand’s Whakaari volcano eruption this month rose to 17 after one of those injured died in a hospital, police said on Monday.
“Police can confirm a further person has died in Middlemore Hospital last night (Sunday) following the Whakaari/White Island eruption,” New Zealand Police deputy commissioner John Tims said in a statement.
“The death of this person brings the official number of deceased to 17; 16 of whom died in New Zealand and one in Australia,” the statement added.
The victim was one of 14 people who were admitted to hospitals in New Zealand, most of them in critical condition, while a dozen more were transferred to hospitals in Australia.
The toll does not include two people who are still missing in waters around the island, presumed dead. They are New Zealand tour guide Hayden Marshall-Inman, 40, and Australian Winona Langford, 17.
Last Wednesday, police said they were scaling back the search for Marshall-Inman and Langford.
Tims said in a statement that operations to locate the bodies would be handed to local authorities.
“It’s important to be clear – we haven’t given up,” Tims said underlining that the police would have a boat and helicopter deployed for several days from coastal town Whakatane, the closest on the mainland to Whakaari.
“We have always had an expectation of ourselves and others that all bodies would be recovered so it’s both disappointing and frustrating to be in this position,” he added.
Over the weekend an “extensive aerial search” was conducted between the island and the mainland to locate the missing two, police said Monday.
“No further items of significance were located,” said local Superintendent Andy McGregor, adding that police will review the search and decide how the operation will proceed.
Whakaari/White Island, privately-owned and one of the most active volcanoes in the country visited by more than 17,500 people in 2018, erupted on Dec. 9 when it was rated at Volcanic Alert Level 2 out of 5.
The New Zealand authorities have opened two investigations into the incident. EFE-EPA
Sydney, Australia – Two people who were injured in the recent eruption of the Whakaari volcano in northeastern New Zealand died overnight at hospital, taking the death toll to 16, authorities reported.
So far, the police have confirmed the deaths of eight people, while another eight remain missing, but authorities have said the latter have virtually no chance of survival.
The total number of deaths could still increase given that there are 20 people injured, most of them in a serious condition.
The recent two deaths were that of two brothers, aged 13 and 16, from Australia.
New Zealand police on Wednesday released the names and nationalities of nine of the 14 people who are believed to have died after the eruption of the Whakaari volcano on White Island on Monday.
Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison said at a press conference that they had started the process of transferring five injured Australians and they hoped to carry out another seven evacuations in the next 24 hours.
On Wednesday, geological activity control group GeoNet warned that volcanic activity on Whakaari Island had increased significantly, and that the alert level remained at 3 on a scale of 5.
As a result, the authorities have not been able to return to the island, owing to safety reasons.
Police Minister Stuart Nash told the media that their priority was to get the victims out of the island but they also had to evaluate the risks.
On its part, GeoNet warned of a 40- to 60-percent chance of a fresh eruption in the next 24 hours.
The first volcanic eruption occurred on Monday afternoon when 47 tourists were visiting the privately-owned island, which is located 48 kilometers (about 30 miles) to the northeast off the coast of North Island.
Among the 47 tourists were people of various nationalities: 24 Australians, nine Americans, five New Zealanders, four Germans, two Britons, two Chinese and one Malaysian.
Whakaari – a 321 meter-high volcano, which has 70 percent of its structure hidden below sea level – is considered one of New Zealand’s most active volcanoes and is a major tourist attraction.
Located at the southeastern end of the Pacific Ring of Fire, Whakaari last erupted in 2016 without causing any fatalities.
The deadliest incident at the site occurred in 1914 when 10 miners died as a result of a landslide caused by the collapse of part of the volcano’s crater. EFE-EPA
Thousands of people in Baghdad continued their protests at Tahrir Square in central Baghdad on Monday (October 28), defying a curfew scheduled to be imposed from midnight until 6am (2100GMT to 0300 GMT).
Protesters took to the streets for a fourth day, despite having endured bloody clashes over the weekend and an overnight raid by security forces seeking to disperse them.
At least 74 Iraqis were killed and hundreds wounded across the country on Friday (October 25) and Saturday (October 26) as demonstrators clashed with security forces and militia groups in the second wave of this month’s protests against Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi’s government.
More than 200 people have been killed in October so far.
Iraqi security forces on Monday fired tear gas at school and university students who defied a warning from the prime minister and joined anti-government protests.
A spokesman for Abdul Mahdi, whose position is increasingly precarious as he faces the largest challenge since he came to power a year ago, said on Sunday (October 27) that anyone disrupting work or school days would be severely punished.
Mass street protests in Baghdad and other cities in the southern Shi’te heartland against economic hardship began at the start of the month and resumed on Friday after a pause of about two weeks. (Reuters)
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