- Click to share on Facebook (Opens in a new window)
- Click to share on Twitter (Opens in a new window)
- Click here to share on LinkedIn (Opens in a new window)
- Click to email a friend (Opens in a new window)
(CNN) - The death of at least six tourists in a volcanic eruption in New Zealand has raised doubts about whether tourism companies are taking enough precautions to keep visitors safe, and if tourists are aware of the risks.
The eruption took place on White Island, off the north coast of New Zealand, Monday afternoon local time. The volcano is a popular destination for visitors to the area, with groups of tourists who go on boat trips every day.
It is described as "one of the most accessible active volcanoes in the world" on the White Island Tours website, which offers nearby ocean cruises, as well as guided tours according to the level of volcanic alert.
Monday's explosion comes after the death of a hiker in July when Italy's Stromboli volcano, one of the most active volcanoes on Earth and a popular attraction for visitors, was rocked by a series of explosions, highlighting the dangers of volcano tourism.
LOOK : Eruption of Stromboli volcano leaves a hiker dead
Bill McGuire, professor emeritus of geophysical and climatic risks at University College London, said that White Island was very similar to Stromboli, with seismic activity in the form of small explosions rather than large eruptions.
"As (White Island) is only a couple of kilometers in diameter, however, visitors are close to the vent and under threat even if there is a small explosion," McGuire said.
Evidence of 'agitation'
Steven Sherburn, a volcanologist at GNS Science who monitors volcanic activity in New Zealand, said there had been evidence of "turmoil" on the volcano for weeks, but people kept visiting it.
"There was nothing particularly unusual today," he said of the activity prior to Monday's eruption.
The professor of geophysics at the University of East Anglia Jessica Johnson said that "it is very difficult to say whether tourism should be allowed there."
"The most scientists can do is continue monitoring the volcano and issue information when it is available," he added.
Paul Quinn, president of White Island Tours, the company that travels to the volcano, told CNN that, according to information provided by GNS, the seismic activity was at level 2 on the morning of the event, which means that visitors They could still be taken to the island.
"We operate within our guidelines," Quinn said. "There was nothing to indicate that there was going to be an eruption."
READ : Eruption of White Island volcano in New Zealand: the latest
'You can never be totally safe'
Geologist Alan Clewlow, who has been operating the specialized tour operator Volcanic Experiences for more than 20 years, said White Island was the most dangerous volcano he had been to.
Clewlow, who directs trips to volcanoes around the world, said they offered him a gas mask and a helmet when he visited the island, and warned him about his eruption.
LOOK : Stunning images of the eruption of the White Island volcano in New Zealand
"You can never be totally safe on an active volcano," he said. "We follow the guide of guides and local authorities."