New Zealand’s workplace safety watchdog has charged 13 parties as part of its investigation into last December’s White Island/Whakaari volcano eruption, according to reports. Twenty two people died in the disaster.
Ten parties face charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act which carries a maximum fine of $1.5m (US$1.06m).
Three individuals are 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.
The charges have been laid by Worksafe, the county’s workplace health and safety regulator.
Twenty-two people lost their lives and a further 22 were seriously injured. The tragedy occurred when the live volcano erupted on 9 December, 2019, when guided groups were on the island. Most were tourists from visiting cruise ship Ovation of the Seas.
Those charged are due in the Auckland District Court on 15 December.
WorkSafe said in a letter to victims it is not naming the parties it has charged as they may seek suppression on their first appearance in court, Television New Zealand reported.
White Island/Whakaari in New Zealand’s northeastern Bay of Plenty region and is regularly visited by the public on guided tours.
The volcano had been showing signs of unrest for several weeks before the 2019 eruption and three weeks before was rated at Volcanic Alert Level 2 indicating “moderate to heightened volcanic unrest”, due to increased activity.
Soon after the tragedy, the prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, said official inquiries into the eruption and New Zealand’s response will take up to a year to conclude.