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Pain, Reflection as New Zealand Remembers White Island Volcano Disaster

FILE - In this Dec. 9, 2019, file photo provided by Michael Schade, tourists on a boat look at the eruption of the volcano on White Island, New Zealand.

New Zealand is remembering victims of the deadly eruption of the Pacific island nation’s most active volcano a year ago. Twenty-two people died when the White Island volcano exploded on Dec 9, 2019. Most of the victims were Australians, while American tourists were also among the dead.

Two of White Island’s victims – New Zealand tour guide Hayden Marshall-Inman and 17-year-old Australian Winona Langford – have never been found. Langford died along with her parents. Her brother Jesse was the only family member to survive the eruption.

Twenty-two people died after the volcano suddenly erupted a year ago, emitting acidic sludge, ash and poisonous gasses. Most of those killed were Australian tourists. A German man died in July due to medical complications while receiving treatment for the injuries he received at White Island.

They have been remembered at services in New Zealand’s Bay of Plenty.

One survivor described the impact from the eruption as a "wave" of ash and rock. Twenty-five people were rescued, but some have suffered life-changing injuries. One told New Zealand media that she felt her hands were melting as her burnt skin fell from her body.

Meredith Dallow’s brother, Gavin, and his 15-year-old stepdaughter Zoe, died at White Island.

"We just want them to be remembered as, you know, fun-loving, popular people who enjoyed and made the most of life," he said. "And I guess that is something that I have thought about this last year and getting out and let’s just go and do it.

There had been signs of seismic activity for weeks before the disaster, but the sudden nature of the eruption took everyone - including the authorities - by surprise.

New Zealand's health and safety authorities have filed charges against 13 organizations and individuals over the disaster. They face large fines if convicted.