New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday that a formal investigation into a volcanic eruption on White Island last week could take up to a year and carry a potential prison sentence of five years.
Jacinda Ardern also announced a $5 million fund to help small businesses be affected by the eruption after New Zealanders pondered for a minute in honor of last week’s victims.
The official death toll from the sudden explosion on White Island is also known by the Maori as Whakaari remains 16 because two bodies believed to be in the waters around the island are still listed as missing.
An additional 26 people are still being treated at New Zealand and Australian hospitals, many in critical condition from severe burns. The dead and injured include tourists from the United States, Germany, China, Britain and Malaysia.
There has been growing criticism for allowing tourists to the island, a popular destination for daily visitors due to the active volcanic risk. It predicts that the tragedy may bring economic change to New Zealand’s leisure travelers.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne met her New Zealand counterpart here yesterday to express her gratitude to the country’s medical and emergency crew.
Legal experts said last week they expected a lawsuit to be filed in U.S. court by injured passengers and the families of the victims.
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