The volcanic island Whakaari / White Island in New Zealand’s northeastern Bay of Plenty region explosively erupted on 9 December 2019 at 14:11 NZDT (01:11 UTC). There were 47 people on the island at the time. Twenty-two people were killed, including two who are missing and declared dead, and a further 25 people suffered injuries, many of whom suffered severe burns. The ongoing seismic and volcanic activity in the area as well as heavy rainfall, low visibility and toxic gases hampered recovery efforts over the week following the incident.
In April 2020 legal action was commenced in Australia on behalf of relatives and Ovation passengers against the cruise-ship operator Royal Caribbean International.
On 30 November, it was reported that WorkSafe New Zealand had filed charges against 13 parties over the Whakaari eruption including GNS Science, the National Emergency Management Agency, and tour operators Volcanic Air and the Ngāti Awa–owned White Island Tours. Ten parties have been charged under the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015; nine under section 36 for failing to ensure the health and safety of workers and others, with one facing a charge as a person controlling a business. Each of these charges carries a maximum fine of NZ$1.5 million. Three individuals were also charged under section 44 of the act which requires directors or individuals with the influence of a company to ensure that the company meets health and safety obligations. Each charge carries a maximum fine of NZ$300,000. The first court date is scheduled for 15 December at the Auckland District Court.