10 firms and three people charged over deaths of 22 in New Zealand volcano eruption

Officials in New Zealand have filed charges against 10 businesses and three people after an investigation into a volcanic eruption that left 22 dead.

The surprise eruption on White Island, also known by its Maori name of Whakaari, also injured dozens of people on 9 December last year.

The majority of those killed and injured were tourists from countries including Australia, the United States and Malaysia.

They were on board a cruise ship that was travelling around New Zealand. There were 47 people on the island when the volcano erupted.

Questions were raised at the time as to why people were allowed on the island, a popular destination for day-trippers, given there was reported to be a heightened risk of an eruption.

WorkSafe, New Zealand’s primary regulator for workplace-related incidents, said in a news conference its investigations found 13 parties had not met their health and safety obligations in taking the tourists to the White Island.

WorkSafe chief executive Phil Parkes said: “This was an unexpected event, but that does not mean it was unforeseeable and there is a duty on operators to protect those in their care.”

The regulator has charged 10 organisations under the Health and Safety at Work Act with each charge carrying a maximum fine of NZ$1.5m (£790,000).

Three individuals were 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 NZ$300,000 (£158,000).

WorkSafe did not name those charged as they may seek suppression orders in their first appearance in court on 15 December.

The agency said it had not investigated the rescue and recovery following the eruption, as that is the subject of a inquest which is under way.

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