White Island volcano: NZ officials charge 13 parties over tragedy

New Zealand's health and safety authorities have filed charges against 13 parties over last year's deadly White Island disaster.

Some 22 people died when the country's most active volcano suddenly erupted last December with tourists on it.

Ten parties now face charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act, which carries a maximum fine of NZ$1.5m ($1.06m; £0.79m).

A further three have been charged as directors or individuals.

These individuals, who have been accused of neglecting health and safety obligations, will face a maximum fine of NZ$300,000.

WorkSafe NZ said those charged could not be identified as they had a right to seek a suppression order on their names at a court appearance on 15 December.

The eruption on White Island, also known by its Maori name of Whakaari, happened on 9 December.

There were 47 people on the island: 24 from Australia, nine from the US, five from New Zealand, four from Germany, two from China, two from the UK, and one from Malaysia.

The once popular tourist destination was visited by thousands every year, despite the fact that it had been erupting in some form since 2011.

The volcano had been showing signs of unrest for weeks before the eruption in 2019, and was rated at Volcanic Alert Level 2, indicating "moderate to heightened volcanic unrest".

Yet the sudden nature of the eruption took everyone - including authorities - by surprise.

Tourists have not been back to the island since.

Shortly after the tragedy, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that an investigation would be held, adding that this could take up to a year.

The owners of Whakatane-based company White Island Tours are the official guardians of the island, which was declared a private scenic reserve in 1952, and they grant access through designated tour operators.