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Coronavirus live news: EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier tests positive | World news


French police officers patrol and control citizens while a strick lockdown comes into in effect to stop the spread of the Covid-19

French police officers patrol and control citizens while a strick lockdown comes into in effect to stop the spread of the Covid-19 Photograph: Laurent VU/SIPA/REX/Shutterstock

France has suggested extending a two-week lockdown to try to stem the spread of the coronavirus as the interior minister blasted “idiots” who flout home confinement rules and put others at risk, AFP reports.

President Emmanuel Macron has ordered French residents to stay at home except for essential excursions such as going to the doctor, walking the dog, or going for a solitary run, and banned any gatherings.

For a two-week period that began Tuesday, people can go to work only if their employer cannot make tele-commuting possible.

But news reports have shown groups of friends and families strolling in parks despite the clampdown, prompting calls from some officials for even stricter limits.

Many have been observed ignoring the one-metre (three feet) safe inter-personal distance in queues at the essential businesses that were allowed to stay open.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said people ignoring the measures were “idiots”.

“There are people who underestimate the risk… There are people who think they are modern-day heroes by breaking the rules while they are in fact idiots,” he told Europe 1 radio.

Macron on Thursday urged companies and workers to continue their activities “in compliance with the health safety rules”.

Genevieve Chene, who heads France’s public health agency, said between two and four weeks are needed for the outbreak to be adequately contained.

“Within two to three weeks we should be able to observe a slightly different dynamic” to the outbreak’s momentum, she told Franceinfo radio, and “a significant braking” within two to four weeks.

“It is likely that it is indeed necessary to extend (the containment measures) in order for the braking to be sufficient,” Chene said.

Meanwhile, the French government has started requisitioning hotel rooms for homeless people to occupy during the confinement period, Housing Minister Julien Denormandie announced.

More than 170 rooms will be made available in Paris by the end of the week, and the government has identified 80 sites elsewhere across the country to accomodate the country’s estimated 250,000 homeless people.



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More than half of women in Zimbabwe have faced sextortion, finds survey | Global development


Zimbabwe has recorded an unprecedented number of women reporting being forced to exchange sex for employment or business favours.

More than 57% of women surveyed by Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ) said they had been forced to offer sexual favours in exchange for jobs, medical care and even when seeking placements at schools for their children.

The report, seen by the Guardian, found women in the informal sector experienced sextortion as the main form of non-monetary bribes by various officials.

About 45% of women said they had received requests for sexual favours to access a service and 15% had used sex to get employment. The report, entitled Gender and Corruption, found women were increasingly vulnerable to sexual abuse amid the deteriorating Zimbabwean economy.

“57.5% of these respondents noted that sexual favours are the form of non-monetary bribe they had experienced. Sextortion is thus a part of the bribery culture in Zimbabwe. Women who do not have money to pay for bribes are thus forced to use sex as a form of payment. 15% used employment favours as a form of bribery,” reads the report.

Women in business were also found to have faced sexual harassment when seeking government tenders.

“At times you get asked for sexual favours in return for tenders or business. What makes the situation difficult, especially for state contracts, is how women in business are perceived by men in control of these processes. When they see a woman, for most of them sex is the first thing that comes to their mind. Hence women are sexualised and seen as sex-preneurs rather than entrepreneurs,” TIZ reports.

Studies carried out by TIZ in 2019 showed women are vulnerable to sexual abuse when seeking land for residential, business or agricultural use.

Sextortion is a global phenomenon that causes serious harm, robbing women of dignity and opportunity, and undermining confidence in public institutions, according to rights groups.

Zimbabwe ranks 158 out of 180 countries included in the Transparency International corruption perceptions index.

“Sex is a currency in many corrupt deals in Zimbabwe. Sexual harassment is institutionalised, and women have been suffering for a long time. There is need to actively deal with all forms of sexual harassment in all sectors,” says the report.

The study shows women are being coerced into corruption, while many fear reporting sextortionists as some police are thought to be part of the corruption chain.

“For some respondents it was fear of reprisal that stopped them from reporting whilst others indicated that there was no reward for reporting corruption. Regarding sextortion, respondents cited the justice system as too masculine, hence they opted not to report.

“All the key informants who took part in the research indicated that Zimbabwe lacks a robust corruption reporting system. They also highlighted the need for a system to promote and protect whistleblowers,” TIZ reported.

“Even the police officers require some form of payment to help you. They may ask for transport or fuel to enable them to investigate. In the end they also get bribed by the perpetrators.”

Globally, the poor suffer most from extortion, paying the highest percentage of their income in bribes, according to the World Bank. Zimbabwe loses close to $2bn (£1.5bn) to corruption annually.

Although Zimbabwe has made progress in advancing gender equality through the establishment of various institutional, legal and policy frameworks, the country still ranks low on the UN gender inequality index. Sexual extortion is rarely recognised as a form of corruption, yet gender activists say it reduces women’s access to land and markets and reinforces social and economic marginalisation.

Lack of political will to deal with corruption has frustrated the efforts of the Zimbabwe anti-corruption commission, which has a mandate to investigate corruption cases in the country.



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Coronavirus: China death toll reaches 212 after WHO declares global emergency – live news | World news






Coronavirus has been declared notifiable disease in Queensland, Australia

Updated





I’d like to say a big thanks to everyone who sent in information, it’s been extremely helpful.

Here’s a summary of some key updates before I hand over to the Australia team, who’ll continue the coverage from Sydney:

  • The virus has spread to at least 9,320 people around the world, surpassing that of the SARS epidemic over a year long period (2002-2003).
  • 212 people have died, all in China.
  • There are 98 confirmed cases of infection outside mainland China in at least 18 countries.
  • The United States reported its first case of person-to-person transmission, joining Germany, Vietnam and Japan in recording similar incidents.
  • BA has suspended all flights to and from mainstream China until the end of February. Other countries have also implemented a flight ban, most recently Italy.
  • Almost 200 US citizens have been evacuated and have arrived at a military base in California. They will be isolated for a minimum of 72 hours. The US is said to be planning another airlift in the coming days.
  • France have evacuated 200 citizens who are currently flying back to southern France where there’ll be quarantined for 14 days. The European Commission has said it is planning a flight to evacuate more European nationals.
  • The Chinese Football Association has postponed its domestic games in 2020, and the World Athletics Indoors Championships, due to take place in the Chinese city of Nanjing in March, have been moved to 2021.
  • Google and IKEA became the latest franchises to shut their Chinese shops and offices.

Updated





In Australia, confirmed cases of the virus have climbed to 9, but two people have been released and are “post-viral” according to the country’s health minister, Greg Hunt.

Authorities have been tracking down passengers that were on a plane with a Chinese tourist who flew from Melbourne to the Gold Coast on 27 January.

The 44-year-old man, from Wuhan, was diagnosed with coronavirus and was being treated in isolation in hospital on the Gold Coast.

The Guardian understands that at least one passenger who was on that plane to the Gold Coast has been asked to stay home from work. The passenger is not believed to be at high risk but as a precaution has been asked to remain at home for the time being.

Updated





Updated









Updated





Updated





The Foreign and Commonwealth Office have confirmed that following a last-minute decision from China, dependents of British nationals and dual nationals will be allowed on to the evacuation flight.

Previously, restrictions imposed by China meant those with Chinese passports were not permitted to leave the country, and China does not recognise dual nationality.

The U-turn meant that Matt Raw and his 75-year-old mother Hazel were given permission to fly along with Raw’s wife Ying, who holds a Chinese passport.

It’s uncertain whether other families in similar situations have been given the go-ahead to board the plane, or whether they have been able to make it to the airport in time.

Updated





Updated



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Davos 2020: Javid, Merkel and Soros in spotlight – business live | Business






Mnuchin slaps down Thunberg’s fossil fuel concerns





Mnuchin and Javid to discuss Huawei this weekend





Ross: EU auto tariffs are still an option

Updated





Mnuchin on US-French tax row









Introduction: Brexit and trade worries





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Corpse of promising footballer found being eaten by three great white sharks during hunt for another missing diver – The Sun


THE SHARK-SAVAGED body of a promising young footballer has been discovered by emergency crews in Australia.

Eric Birighitti’s remains were found in Western Australia by emergency crews while they were hunting for a missing scuba diver who had been attacked by a great white shark.

 Eric Birighitti, 21, from Perth, was discovered at Twilight Beach in Western Australia

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Eric Birighitti, 21, from Perth, was discovered at Twilight Beach in Western AustraliaCredit: Instagram
 The crew found three sharks feeding on his corpse

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The crew found three sharks feeding on his corpseCredit: Instagram

The 21-year-old, who was from Perth, had been devoured by three sharks.

On Tuesday the crew were searching for the body of Gary Johnson, 57, who was attacked while out scuba diving with his wife Karen Milligan.

The crew initially thought the body was the 57-year-old but they later confirmed it was Eric.

The young sportsman was on holiday with friends and enjoying the view when he slipped and fell into the ocean as he walked along the rocks.

His horrified friends desperately tried to rescue him but he was swept out to sea by the currents.

Eric’s last Instagram post had a touching message saying: “Merry Christmas everyone! As we finish off 2019, I hope everybody finds peace and is filled with love as the new year begins.

“Shout out to all those who cannot be with us for whatever reason. Remember to love always, be appreciative and smile.”

 Shark attack locations for 2018

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Shark attack locations for 2018

Eric had won a scholarship to play football for Hasting Broncos at Hastings College in Nebraska and St Thomas Aquina College in New York.

Hasting Broncos paid tribute to Eric on Facebook with a statement that says: “The Bronco family are saddened to hear about the sudden passing of Eric Birighitti.

“Eric played for Hastings during the 2016 and 2017 season and won a national title with the team.
“He will be truly missed and our thoughts are with his family during this difficult time.”

Emergency crews have called off the search for Mr Johnson.

Despite days of extensive searches, including using two remotely operated vehicles to scour the ocean’s floor, only his tank, vest and flippers have been found.

Ms Mulligan paid tribute to her husband saying he was “her rock” and “at home” in the ocean.

She added: “We were always aware of the risks and often told each other that if we were attacked by a shark that would just be unlucky.

“We were completely against shark culling and I still am.”

 Eric had won a scholarship to play football for Hasting Broncos at Hastings College in Nebraska and St Thomas Aquina College in New York

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Eric had won a scholarship to play football for Hasting Broncos at Hastings College in Nebraska and St Thomas Aquina College in New YorkCredit: Instagram
 Gary Johnson was mauled to death by a shark in Western Australia

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Gary Johnson was mauled to death by a shark in Western AustraliaCredit: Facebook
 His girlfriend Karen Milligan watched in horror as the shark attacked

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His girlfriend Karen Milligan watched in horror as the shark attackedCredit: Facebook
 This stock photo shows a ferocious Great White shark baring its fearsome jaws

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This stock photo shows a ferocious Great White shark baring its fearsome jawsCredit: Getty – Contributor





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Brits take over Benidorm beaches for a sun-soaked Costa Del Christmas – The Sun


SPAIN’S beaches have been flooded with a sea of white this year as pasty Brits headed out for a Costa Del Christmas.

Benidorm and the Canary Islands have been inundated with winter sun hunters hoping to crack on with the turkey alongside a cold glass of sangria.

 Brits head to Benidorm to soak up some winter sun

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Brits head to Benidorm to soak up some winter sunCredit: Alamy Live News
 Sun-worshippers are hoping for a golden December glow

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Sun-worshippers are hoping for a golden December glowCredit: Alamy Live News
 It's sprouts and sangria on the menu this year

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It’s sprouts and sangria on the menu this yearCredit: Alamy Live News

Sun worshippers donned Santa hats as they stretched out on Spanish beaches hoping for a golden December glow.

This year, Christmas roasts will be devoured in Benidorm hotels en masse by festive ex-pats.

UK holidaymakers this year amassed almost half a million pounds worth of fines, says Spanish air safety agency AESA who received 216 criminal complaints this year as yet more Brits flooded the airways heading off for winter sun.

A recent study revealed 29 per cent of holiday makers who head abroad are fed up of British Christmases because it’s cold but never snows, and a fifth are tired of it being “always the same”.

And one in ten don’t enjoy being at home for Christmas because they don’t like hosting the celebratory dinner with all the trimmings.

 

But the holiday destination favoured by Brits has become a criminal hub after a spate of violent muggings marred the pristine beach fronts.

A group of ex-pats have even set up a vigilante group in Spain’s Costa Blanca to “tackle the thugs”.

The Sun Online has carried a string of stories about vicious attacks on visitors to Benidorm, where a Brit was robbed of £400 by a gang of girls.

 Thousands of Brits have jetted off for the festive season

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Thousands of Brits have jetted off for the festive seasonCredit: Alamy Live News
 Holidaymakers are swapping snow for sand

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Holidaymakers are swapping snow for sandCredit: Alamy Live News
 Costa Del Christmas sees ex-pats soaking up the winter sun

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Costa Del Christmas sees ex-pats soaking up the winter sunCredit: Alamy Live News
 A beach in the Canary Islands filled with Christmas holidaymakers

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A beach in the Canary Islands filled with Christmas holidaymakersCredit: Alamy Live News
 One Brit dons a santa hat as he soaks up the rays

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One Brit dons a santa hat as he soaks up the raysCredit: Alamy Live News
 Sea, sand and Santa is on the menu for these guys

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Sea, sand and Santa is on the menu for these guysCredit: Alamy Live News
Boozed up’ Brit arrested in Benidorm for ‘stealing a COACH and going on two mile wrecking spree





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Russian TV axes show starring Ukraine’s leader after Putin joke | World news


A Russian television channel has abruptly cancelled a sitcom starring Ukraine’s president after an allusion to a crude joke about Vladimir Putin was aired in Russia’s far east.

The political satire Servant of the People served as a platform for the former comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy to gain popularity and eventually win the Ukrainian presidency, in a vote largely driven by anger at the country’s previous leaders.

But with sharp jokes directed against Putin, many wondered how long the political satire would last on Russia’s carefully-controlled airwaves.

The answer was less than one night.

After quickly editing out a joke made at Putin’s expense in the season’s premiere, the television channel TNT subsequently cancelled its broadcast of later airings of the 23-episode season, replacing them with sitcoms that were less likely to rile the Kremlin.

TNT did not immediately reply to requests from the Guardian for comment. It told Vedomosti, the Russian business newspaper, that it had never planned to air the whole season, and that the broadcast was a “marketing ploy” for its online streaming service. The episode is still available there.

Servant of the People follows the fictionalised Zelenskiy’s unlikely rise from high school teacher to Ukraine’s president after his rant against corruption goes viral.

In the season’s premiere Zelenskiy, playing the role of Ukraine’s new president, is selecting a new timepiece to match those worn by other leaders.

Putin, he is told, wears a Hublot.

“Putin’s a Hublot?” Zelenskiy responds.

The word Hublot resembles another that translates, less crudely, to the word “dick” in Russian’s swearing sub-language known as Mat. The phrase “Putin’s a dick”, using the swearword, became a popular slogan in Ukraine after the outbreak of the conflict in south-east Ukraine, and could be heard at anti-Putin rallies and seen in graffiti dabbed on walls across Ukraine.

It is not clear whether that joke was enough to cause the television show’s cancellation, as the series features a number of jokes about Russia and Putin. But in broadcasts of Servant of the People broadcast later on Wednesday night, including those shown in Moscow, the joke had been edited out. The edit was first reported by the BBC’s Russian service.

Lentach, a Russian website that combines news and humour, put together a simple map showing which parts of Russia had and had not heard “Putin is a Hublot”.

TNT, a Russian television station that focuses on sitcoms and comedy shows, announced it would debut the show just days after Zelenskiy and Putin met for high-stakes talks in Paris on the conflict in east Ukraine. It was the first meeting between the two leaders.

The show was advertised to Russian viewers as a counterpoint to Zelenskiy’s real presidency.

“For viewers, the television series became a utopia with no real relation to the Ukraine of Zelenskiy,” the television station wrote in a release.

Television is a carefully-controlled medium in Russia, and shows that have made fun of Putin have quickly been booted off air. The most famous was in 2002 when the show Puppets, which featured a fake version of Putin and was inspired by the show Spitting Image, was abruptly cancelled.





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Saudi Aramco becomes world’s biggest listed company as shares surge 10% – business live | Business


A screen advertising Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil company Aramco with Arabic reads, “promising future” in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, this week

A screen advertising Saudi Arabia’s state-owned oil company Aramco with Arabic reads, “promising future” in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, this week Photograph: Amr Nabil/AP

Good morning, and welcome to our rolling coverage of the world economy, the financial markets, the eurozone and business.

It’s a massive day on the Saudi stock market as oil giant Aramco finally makes its debut — becoming the biggest listed company in the world.

Saudi Aramco is floating today, after raising $25.6bn through its sometime troubled IPO. That valued the company at $1.7trillion – even more than Apple ($1.2 trillion).

The opening auction on the Tadawul is underway as I type, so we’ll soon know if the float is a success.

If Aramco’s shares rally today, then the $2trillion valuation craved by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman could be in sight again.

But it’s an usual float – just 1.5% of Aramco’s stock is actually floating. The rest is owned by the Saudi state.

That scarcity could help push the stock higher, after international investors proved reluctant to back the IPO.

Human rights concerns, the climate crisis, and corporate government concerns all forced the Saudis to rein in their ambitious plans for the float, and restrict it to Middle East investors.

As my colleague Jillian Ambrose explains:


It was originally expected to sell about 5% through a dual-listing on the Saudi market and on a major international stock exchange.

The IPO lost the support of international investors, which are sceptical of the company’s valuation. Investors are also wary of Aramco’s close ties to the Saudi regime, which is embroiled in geopolitical conflict and whose behaviour has raised human rights concerns.
Among local investors demand for Aramco shares was almost three times oversubscribed after the Saudi government encouraged Middle Eastern investors and wealthy Saudi families to support the IPO.

Aramco’s shares were sold at 32 riyals each. The stock should start trading soon, so we’ll see if it spikes or slides…..

Also coming up today

The City is becoming more anxious about tomorrow’s general election.

A closely-watched poll from YouGov showed Boris Johnson’s likely majority has narrowed – from 68 seats to just 28. A hung parliament is still a real possibility, which knocked sterling a little last night.

The pound is trading around $1.3135 this morning, having hit $1.32 last night (before YouGov hit the wires).

Plus, America’s central bank is holding its last (scheduled) meeting of 2019, but we’re not expecting fireworks.

The agenda

  • 12.30pm GMT: US inflation: Expected to rise to 2.0% per year, from 1.8%
  • 3.30pm GMT: US weekly oil inventories
  • 7pm GMT: US Federal Reserve decision: expected to leave interest rates unchanged



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France braces for further strikes over pension changes | World news


French unions are staging a second round of mass street demonstrations as the country entered its sixth day of a nationwide strike and transport standstill over proposed plans to change the pensions system.

The government’s standoff with unions continued as the prime minister, Édouard Philippe, said he would stand firm and announce details of the pension changes on Wednesday, with speculation over possible concessions on the start date in order to diffuse growing tensions on the streets.

The government was watching Tuesday’s turnout after being caught off-guard by the scale of last week’s street protests when at least 800,000 people took part in one of the biggest demonstrations of trade union strength in a decade.

Crucially, the number of protesters has been particularly high in small provincial towns, echoing the mood of the gilets jaunes anti-government protests earlier this year. People are angry not only with pensions but low salaries, worsening prospects, the state of public services and what one demonstrator called “the feeling of being forgotten”.

Commuters wait on a platform at the Gare du Nord RER station on Tuesday morning



Commuters wait on a platform at the Gare du Nord RER station on Tuesday morning. Photograph: Eric Gaillard/Reuters

One local MP for president Emmanuel Macron’s party said it would be hard to tackle a protest movement that spread from pensions to several different grievances at once.

Across the country, transport turmoil continued on Tuesday with trains at a virtual halt, some flights grounded, 10 lines of the Paris metro closed and more than 300km of traffic jams on roads around Paris by 7am. Teachers, hospital staff, fire officers, air-traffic controllers and other public sector workers were expected to walk out alongside train drivers and transport workers.

In the greater Paris area, where more than 9 million people depend on an already overburdened public transport system each day, there were dangerous crushes on packed platforms as crowds of commuters tried to push on to the very few banlieue trains running at rush-hour.

Commuters wait at Gare de l’Est train station in Paris during a strike by SNCF workers and the Paris transport network RATP as part of a second day of nationwide strikes.



Commuters wait at Gare de l’Est train station in Paris during a strike by SNCF workers and the Paris transport network RATP. Photograph: Christian Hartmann/Reuters

Macron, the pro-business president who has promised to deliver the biggest “transformation” of the French social model and welfare system since the postwar era, regards his pension reforms as a key test.

He has staked his political credibility on refusing to buckle in the face of street protests, accusing previous presidents of lacking the resolve to stand strong. With Macron potentially aiming to run for a second term in office the 2022 presidential election, backing down would be to risk losing his support-base. But demonstrators said they feared France’s social safety net was being unpicked.

Union members and employees of the Paris transport network RATP block a bus depot in Les-Pavillons-sous-Bois near Paris



Union members and employees of the Paris transport network RATP block a bus depot in Les-Pavillons-sous-Bois near Paris. Photograph: Lucien Libert/Reuters

The government argues that unifying the French pensions system – and getting rid of the 42 “special” regimes for sectors ranging from rail and energy workers to lawyers and Paris Opera staff – is crucial to keep the system financially viable as the French population ages. But unions say the changes are an attack on fundamental worker rights, and fear people will have to work longer for smaller pensions.

Police ordered all shops to close on the route of the demonstration in southern Paris. Other big marches were planned in cities including Grenoble, Lyon and Rouen.



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New Zealand volcano: one dead and ‘likely to be more’ after eruption on White Island – live | World news














Owner of Ovation of the Seas, Royal Caribbean, has said the ship will stay in port overnight.

“We can confirm that a number of our guests were touring the island today,” it said in a statement. “We do not have any additional details to share at this time.

“Ovation of the Seas will remain overnight until we learn more about the situation. We will offer all possible assistance to our guests and local authorities. Please keep all those affected in your prayers.”

















30 to 38 cruise ship passengers on island

Breaking from Eleanor Ainge Roy:

Kevin O’Sullivan, the chief executive officer of the New Zealand Cruise Association confirmed that a tour party of 30 to 38 people from cruise ship Ovation of the Seas were on a tour of White Island today, and had not returned.

He said the passengers names and nationalities were now being handed to police, and the Ovation of the Seas would stay docked in Tauranga at least overnight.

“I know the cruise ship will be able to compile a list of the tour party and they will be handing that to New Zealand police, and the police will then make a statement on the nationalities,” he said.

“Our hope of course is they will be recovered unharmed and returned back to the ship.”













Updated









23 people taken from island





One person dead









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