NEWS
11/12/2019 11:47 AM AEDT | Updated 11/12/2019 11:49 AM AEDT

Packed To The Rafters Actor Reflects On Time On White Island: 'Fragile, Very Dangerous Ground'

Erik Thomson grew up close to the volcano in New Zealand's Bay of Plenty, and recalled walking "in its very active crater".

Actor Erik Thomson has paid tribute to those affected by the New Zealand volcano eruption, and also reflected on his own experience on White Island “walking on fragile, very dangerous ground”. 

The 52-year-old grew up close to the stratovolcano that is almost 50km from the east coast of the country’s North Island. He recalled seeing the island in the distance from his home, before visiting it some years later. 

“I grew up in NZ’s Bay of Plenty with this island on the horizon,” Erik wrote on Instagram on Tuesday. “White Island was its colonised name but Whakaari is its original name. Its translation is ‘that which can be made visible’.

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Erik Thomson has paid tribute to those affected by the New Zealand volcano eruption, and also reflected on his own experience on White Island “walking on fragile, very dangerous ground”. 

“In 2006 I was fortunate enough to take a trip out there and walk in its very active crater,” he explained.

The actor said the experience from 13 years ago had a great impact on him, and he felt “relieved” when he walked away from it. 

“It was incredibly beautiful in its raw power but I remember having a strong sense that I was being granted some grace with my visit, that I was walking on fragile, very dangerous ground. I was relieved when we left,” he said. 

“Today some weren’t given that same grace, it is a terrible tragedy, and I send my deep condolences to those loved ones who are mourning their loss.”

On Tuesday police raised the death toll to six following the White Island volcano eruption that took place on Monday. 

Fearing the volcano could erupt again, search parties were unable to set foot on the island, with eight people still missing. 

Police doubted whether any more survivors would be found.  They said the latest victim died in hospital, with more than 30 people injured in the eruption on the uninhabited island, a popular sightseeing excursion for tourists. 

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said reconnaissance flights showed no signs of life on the ash covered island, as eyewitnesses detailed the horrific burns suffered by those caught up in Monday’s eruption.

“The scale of this tragedy is devastating,” Ardern said in parliament. “To those who have lost or are missing family and friends, we share in your grief and sorrow and we are devastated.”

INSTAGRAM @ALLESSANDROKAUFFMANN/via REUTERS
Smoke from the volcanic eruption of Whakaari, also known as White Island, is pictured from a boat, New Zealand December 9, 2019 in this picture grab obtained from a social media video.
@SCH VIA REUTERS
Thick smoke from the volcanic eruption of Whakaari, also known as White Island, is seen from a distance of a vessel in New Zealand, December 9, 2019, in this image obtained via social media. 

Police said 47 people were on White Island at the time of the eruption.

Twenty-four came from Australia, nine from the United States, five from New Zealand, four from Germany, two each from China and the Britain and one from Malaysia.

New Zealand’s geological hazards agency GeoNet raised the alert level for the volcano in November because of an increase in volcanic activity. The volcano’s last fatal eruption was in 1914, when it killed 12 sulfur miners.

Yet, daily tours bring more than 10,000 visitors to the privately owned island every year, marketed as “the world’s most accessible active marine volcano.”

MARTY MELVILLE via Getty Images
Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern (C) with New Zealand Police Superintendent Bruce Bird (L) and Whakatane Mayor Judy Turner (R) speak to the media about the eruption of Whakaari/White Island during a press conference in Whakatane on December 10, 2019

Charlotte Greenfield (Reuters) contributed to this report.