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Raoul Island Evacuation Underway

17 March 2006

Raoul Island Evacuation Underway

The Department of Conservation has ordered the evacuation of staff from Raoul Island in the remote Kermadec Island group due to a volcanic eruption that occurred this morning.

The eruption caused a steam and ash plume and threw out mud in the Green Lake area on the island. A moderate earthquake accompanied the blast, estimated at 3-4 on the Richter scale. The Department is now organising the evacuation of staff, said Rolien Elliot, DOC Area Manage for Warkworth.

“A helicopter has been sent to pick up the DOC staff that are based on the island, five of whom have been accounted for. One staff member is missing after going on a routine mission to check the water temperature of the lake,” she said.

The staff are waiting for the helicopter to arrive in the safest known area on the island in the staff accommodation.

The helicopter will take five hours to reach Raoul Island. Maritime New Zealand is coordinating the evacuation. Vessels in the area have also been called on for support.

“We are monitoring the situation closely, with the safety of the staff being our top priority.” Said Ms Elliot

The Kermadecs islands, 1000km northeast of New Zealand, are a nature reserve managed by the Department of Conservation. The chain of islands some 250km along the western edge of the Kermadec Trench, with Raoul Island being the biggest at 2900ha.

The whole area is volcanically active, and earthquakes are common. The islands are the summits of steep sided young volcanoes which rise 8,000m from the sea floor. The last eruption occurred in 1964 when a party had to be evacuated.

ENDS

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