New Zealand volcano erupts: Is eruption related to dreaded ‘Ring of Fire’ activity?

New Zealand’s Whakaari, or White Island, volcano suddenly and unexpectedly burst into life at around 2.15pm local time, sending a plume of ash and debris 3,657 metres above the mainland. Five people are confirmed to be dead and 20 more missing, with police deputy commissioner John Tims saying there “are likely to be more” casualties. What caused the eruption is still unclear, but experts are concerned the Ring of Fire played its part.

New Zealand is particularly prone to tremors and volcanic activity as it sits upon the dreaded Ring of Fire.

The Ring of Fire is the largest and most active fault line in the world, stretching from New Zealand, around the east coast of Asia, over to Canada and the USA and all the way down to the southern tip of South America and causes more than 90 percent of the world’s earthquakes.

The plates which make up the Ring of Fire are so huge even the slightest shift results in massive tremors, volcano activity and tsunamis.

Robin George Andrews, a doctor of experimental volcanology and science journalist, wrote for Forbes: “Well, it is related to the Ring of Fire in that this volcano sits on it.

“This term describes a conveniently shaped network of major tectonic boundaries that are continuously shifting around in very complex ways.

“Thanks to these behaviours, this network is responsible for 75 percent of the world’s volcanic activity, or thereabouts (and a staggering 90 percent of the planet’s earthquakes).

“The underlying causes may be similar, but any eruptions that occur here happen independently of each other.”

Despite the fact that White Island sits 48 kilometres (30 miles) away from the Bay of Plenty, on the north island’s east coast, the Civil Defence for New Zealand has warned people to stay inside.

With ash and debris being ploughed so high into the air, there is a chance wind can carry it over from White Island to the Bay of Plenty, causing volcanic discharge to rain down on the citizens.

The Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management said on its website: “A volcanic eruption is occurring at White Island and is hazardous in the immediate vicinity of the volcano.

“Volcanic hazards may impact areas on and near the volcano.

“Ash falls may impact areas distant from the volcano. People should stay out of designated restricted zones.”

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“Be aware of the potential for ashfall. Consider staying indoors. Volcanic ash could be a health hazard, especially if you suffer from breathing difficulties.

“When indoors, close all windows and doors to limit the entry of volcanic ash.

“If caught in volcanic ashfalls: Wear a dust mask or use a cloth handkerchief over your nose and mouth; protect your eyes by wearing goggles. Wear eyeglasses, NOT contact lenses as fine ash will get under the lens.

“Listen to the radio and/or TV for further assessment and updates. Effects of a volcanic eruption can be experienced many kilometres from a volcano.”

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