By Frank Miles
Published December 09, 2019
Barbara Barham told The Washington Post on Monday that daughter Lauren Urey, 32, and husband Matthew Urey, 36, are now radio silent, as the couple’s voicemail doesn’t pick up.
Matthew left a distressing voicemail to his family: “There had been a volcano eruption and they were burned very bad,” Barham said.
“He said he would try to call as soon as he could, but talking and making phone calls was difficult,” Barham continued. “His hands were so badly burned it was hard for him to make a phone call.”
Barham said the couple had plans to visit a live volcano and weren’t concerned about possible eruptions.
Barham said she was “livid” people were allowed to visit the volcano.
“Obviously, I’m panicking,” Barham told the newspaper. “I don’t know how to act. I feel like I should be crying, but I can’t even cry.”
With its moon-like surface, White Island is a popular tourist destination, and also the tip of an undersea volcano.
White Island sits about 30 miles offshore from mainland New Zealand and experts say it's the country's most active cone volcano, with about 70 percent of the volcano lying under the sea.
The volcano erupted Monday with a towering blast of ash and scalding steam.
The eruption took place about 2 p.m. and consisted of two explosions in quick succession.
It sent a plume of steam and ash an estimated 12,000 feet into the air.
One of the boats that returned from the island was covered with ash half a yard thick.
“My god,” wrote Michael Schade on Twitter as he posted a video of the eruption. “My family and I had gotten off it 20 minutes before, were waiting at our boat about to leave when we saw it. Boat ride home tending to people our boat rescued was indescribable.”
His video showed a wall of ash and steam around the island and a helicopter badly damaged and covered in ash.
Authorities said 47 people were on the island at the time. Some were walking along the rim of the crater just before the eruption. In addition to the dead and missing, 31 survivors were hospitalized and three others were released, officials said.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said “no signs of life have been seen at any point” since the eruption.
Reuters reported that Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday three Australians are feared to be among the confirmed fatalities.
“We fear of the five deceased persons, up to three are Australians, but that is not yet confirmed,” Morrison told reporters in Sydney.
Eighteen other people were rescued. Eight others were missing and feared dead.
The missing and injured included New Zealanders and tourists from Australia, the U.S., China, Britain and Malaysia, Ardern said.
Morrison said 11 Australians remained unaccounted for, and 13 others are in hospitals across New Zealand.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.