White Island eruption horror: ‘Everyone was horrifically burnt’

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A Hamilton man who gave first aid to those critically injured in the Whakaari/White Island eruption has spoken of the horror.

Boatload after boatload of survivors were pulled onto the man’s boat, as those helping poured water over their scalded skin.

Geoff Hopkins, 50, said some drifted in and out of consciousness as he tried to tell them that everything was all right.

He now worries that those he helped are among the dead.

“They were just so massively burnt,” he said.

Mr Hopkins had been given the trip to Whakaari for his birthday by his daughter, who’ is a geology student. He believes they might have been the only Kiwis on their trip.

After they’d visited the island itself, their boat moved around to get one last look at the crater.

“As we turned to start heading back, there was just this gasp across the boat and I looked up.

“I could just see this plume of white and grey rising quite high and quite quickly,” Mr Hopkins told the New Zealand Herald.

And yet, it was silent.

“At that moment, it was quite beautiful – we were watching a volcano erupt in front of our very eyes.

“But then the ash just rolled up over the rock face and as it rolled over, it just suddenly became quite menacing.”