American Honeymooners Severely Burned In New Zealand Volcanic Eruption

By Bill Galluccio

December 10, 2019

A newlywed couple from Virginia who was celebrating their honeymoon in New Zealand suffered severe burns when an active volcano eruptedMatthew and Lauren Urey were visiting Whakaari White Island along with 47 others to get a close-up view of the active volcano when it suddenly erupted.

Lauren was rushed to a hospital, where she is undergoing treatment for severe burns to 25 percent of her body. Matthew suffered burns to 80 percent of his body and was taken a hospital in a different city. The couple's parents are trying to arrange travel to New Zealand but could have to wait up to three days to get their documents processed.

"It’s been a total nightmare," Lauren's father Rick Barham told NBC News. "We are being told it could take 10 minutes to 72 hours. We have gotten no help from anyone."

Officials have confirmed that six people died following the eruption. Eight people are still missing and are presumed dead. Authorities decided not to send recovery teams to the island after experts warned there was a 50 percent chance of another eruption. They are planning to use drones to measure the gas levels near the volcano to determine if it is safe to go in and recover the bodies which are likely buried under the ash.

"We understand the desire from the locals and the loved ones to remove their family from the island. But we are working around the clock," said John Tims, deputy commissioner of the national police. "We are working hard, and we understand what we need to do for friends and family."

One of the first responders described the scene as the volcanic ash rained down on the island.

"It was like I have seen the Chernobyl mini-series, and everything was just blanketed in ash, it was quite an overwhelming feeling, you know? There was a helicopter on the island that had obviously been there at the time, with its rotor blades off it," Russell Clark told TVNZ.

Photo: Getty Images

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