World

Seismic activity still strong on Whakaari

By AAP Newswire

If New Zealand police have overruled scientific advice to return to to White Island, they're doing so with their eyes wide open to the risk.

On Friday, should conditions hold, a defence force mission will travel to Whakaari determined to return the bodies of those were killed and trapped on the island by Monday's eruption.

When they arrive, they'll land to a volcano that's showing more seismic activity than at any point in the last two years, according to the police's own words.

Steam and mud is jetting from the active vents on Whakaari, where seismic activity on the New Zealand island is "a factor of 12" times stronger than before Monday's deadly eruption.

On Thursday, New Zealand's geological monitoring agency, GNS Science, upgraded the chance of an eruption in the next 24 hours to between 50 and 60 per cent.

"The seismic activity started at 4 o'clock yesterday morning and carried on ramping up yesterday and throughout the night," GNS volcanologist Brad Scott told TV1.

"(What) we're recording this morning, is a factor of 12 stronger than before the eruption occurred on Monday.

"It's a lot of strong activity. It's indicative of potential for an eruption that's a lot more significant."

To stress their point, GNS released maps on Thursday afternoon which clearly showed no-go zones.

"Today is less safe than yesterday, and the day before that," GNS volcanologist Graham Leonard said.

"The red zone shows an area that would be considered a no-go for GNS Science staff, and the yellow zone would only be accessible in exceptional circumstances.

"GNS Science has provided this information to New Zealand Police, to support decision making about the safety of their personnel."

With the support of the police, around eight brave members of New Zealand's defence force personnel will go in anyway.

Nico Fournier, another GNS volcanologist, made plain the risks of being in the region during an eruption.

"(You'd have) very fast ballistics, rocks going at incredibly high speed. That would be one sort of casualty," he said.

"The ash would probably be quite high, depending on how much magma is in the eruption.

"It could go from a few hundred degrees to a higher temperature."