New Zealand regulator charges 13 parties over White Island eruption tragedy

An aerial view of the Whakaari, also known as White Island volcano, in New Zealand, on December 12, 2019. (REUTERS/Jorge Silva/File Photo)
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Updated 30 November 2020

New Zealand regulator charges 13 parties over White Island eruption tragedy

  • 22 people were killed in last year's surprise eruption on the White Island

WELLINGTON: 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 traveling 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.


‘Disturbing’ allegations of rape in Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict: UN

Updated 22 January 2021

‘Disturbing’ allegations of rape in Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict: UN

  • A UN representative said she was greatly concerned by serious allegations from the northern region

ADDIS ABABA: The UN says it has received “disturbing” reports of sexual violence and abuse in Ethiopia’s conflict-hit Tigray region, including of individuals forced to rape members of their own family.
Pramila Patten, the UN’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict, said she was greatly concerned by serious allegations from the northern region, including “a high number of alleged rapes” in the Tigrayan capital Mekele.
“There are also disturbing reports of individuals allegedly forced to rape members of their own family, under threats of imminent violence,” Patten said in a statement Thursday.
“Some women have also reportedly been forced by military elements to have sex in exchange for basic commodities.”
Patten called on all parties involved in the hostilities to commit to a zero-tolerance policy for crimes of sexual violence.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, announced military operations in Tigray in early November, saying they came in response to attacks by the regional ruling party on federal army camps.
Abiy declared victory after federal forces entered the regional capital in late November, though leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) remain on the run and have vowed to fight on.
Thousands have died in the conflict, according to the International Crisis Group, though a communications blackout and media and humanitarian access restrictions have made it difficult to assess the situation on the ground.
In her statement Thursday, Patten noted that “medical centers have indicated an increase in the demand for emergency contraception and testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) which is often an indicator of sexual violence in conflict.”
She called for full humanitarian access to Tigray, including camps for displaced people “and refugee camps where new arrivals have allegedly reported cases of sexual violence.”
She voiced concern about “more than 5,000 Eritrean refugees in and around the area of Shire living in dire conditions, many of them reportedly sleeping in an open field with no water or food, as well as the more than 59,000 Ethiopians who have fled the country into neighboring Sudan.”
The caretaker administration in Tigray did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Earlier this month state television broadcast footage of a meeting during which an unidentified man in a military uniform expressed concern about rapes in Mekele.
“Why are women being raped in Mekele city?” the man said.
“It wouldn’t be shocking had it been happening during the war, because it is not manageable so it could be expected. But at this moment while federal police and local police are back in town, it is still happening.”