New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday (December 16) that official inquiries into last week's fatal volcano eruption could take up to a year, and will carry potential criminal penalties of up to five years in jail.
Investigations into the deadly volcano eruption in New Zealand could take up to a year.
That's according to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Monday (December 16) She spoke after a minute of silence was held nationwide to honor more than a dozen people who lost their lives in the incident.
According to Ardern, the country's workplace regulator has opened a health and safety probe.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) NEW ZEALAND PRIME MINISTER JACINDA ARDERN, SAYING: "As I have said many times, there remain now questions to be asked, and questions to be answered.
As you know, on the 10th of December, WorkSafe opened a health and safety investigation into the harm and loss of life caused by the eruption.
// WorkSafe can prosecute for breaches of the act and penalties in criminal sanctions range from $50,000 to $3 million and up to five years in prison." The official death toll from the surprise eruption on White Island stood at 16.
Two people are still missing - their bodies are believed to lie in waters off the island.
More than twenty still remain hospitalized, many of them suffering severe burns.
Ardern also announced a $3.2 million-dollar fund to help small businesses affected by the eruption.
It's not yet been decided whether tour operators would be among the beneficiaries.
Questions have grown over why people were allowed on the island given the risks of an active volcano.
This has in turn sparked speculation that the tragedy could lead to major changes for New Zealand's thrillseeker tourism economy.