The missing American couple, whose families hadn’t heard from after the New Zealand volcano eruption, has been located.
Matt and Lauren Urey, two newlyweds from Virginia, were both airlifted to different hospitals to treat their burns, The Washington Post reported on Monday. Lauren’s mother, Barbara Barham, previously told the outlet that she hadn’t heard from her daughter or son-in-law since a harrowing voicemail left by Matt indicated that they had been severely injured.
Posted by Lauren Urey on Sunday, November 17, 2019
The Post reported that later on Monday, a hospital representative called to tell Barham that Lauren was in surgery in Auckland, recovering from burns covering 20 percent of her body.
Meanwhile, Matt had been taken to a hospital in Christchurch, and had burns covering about 80 percent of his body, the outlet said.
Barham said that Matt’s mother told her about a voicemail he had left saying “there had been a volcano eruption and they were burned very bad.”
“He said he would try to call as soon as he could, but talking and making phone calls was difficult,” Barham shared. “His hands were so badly burned it was hard for him to make a phone call.”
“Obviously, I’m panicking. I don’t know how to act,” Barham said. “I feel like I should be crying, but I can’t even cry.”
Barham had heard from the newlyweds earlier in the day, before their excursion from the Ovation of the Seas cruise ship to visit the active White Island volcano. Barham said the pair weren’t concerned about a possible eruption, despite reports warning of “moderate volcanic unrest” in the area in recent weeks.
Barham told the Post that she is “livid” after learning of the warnings. “There’s been warnings about it… My son-in-law never would have booked the excursion if he knew there was any chance of them being injured.”
Both Barham and Matt’s mother are planning to fly to New Zealand to be with their children, the Post reported.
The Ureys were among the 47 people on White Island in the eruption, which took place at about 2:15 p.m. local time.
Like the Ureys, 38 of those people were on the Ovation of the Seas cruise ship — 37 passengers and 1 crew member — while the others were comprised of locals, local guides and overseas tourists.A view shows the White Island volcano in Whakatane on December 10, 2019, after a volcanic eruption the day before. MARTY MELVILLE / Getty Images
At least five people were confirmed dead from the eruption, New Zealand Police said, adding in a press release Tuesday that they are continuing to search for the eight people who remain unaccounted for. In total, 31 people were being treated at seven different hospitals throughout the country, police said earlier Tuesday, while three had been discharged from the Whakatane Hospital.
“Police believe that anyone who could have been taken from the island alive was rescued at the time of the evacuation,” a spokesperson from the NZP previously said. “Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island.”
Nonetheless, the NZP’s “absolute priority” is “recovering the remaining victims and returning them to their loved ones.”
“We are devastated by today’s events and our hearts go out to all those affected by this tragedy,” the Royal Caribbean Cruise Line, which owns the Ovation of the Seas, said in a statement to CNN.
“We are working together with local authorities, and we are providing all the help and care we can to our guests and their families, including offering medical resources and counseling,” the statement continued. “We are also sending staff members from both our ship and our Sydney and Auckland offices to assist family members however possible. Ovation of the Seas will remain in port as long as needed to assist with the situation.”
White Island, which is also known as Whakaari, is New Zealand’s most active volcano. It erupted in 2016 and 2012, and also erupted from December 1975 until September 2000, marking the longest hiAudio Guide Systemstoric eruption episode, according to GeoNet, a site that provides geological hazard information for the country.
Despite the island’s activity, White Island is visited by more than 10,000 people per year, according to the site.