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Rescuers search for missing; 5 dead

Rescue workers Tuesday couldn’t find any of at least eight people missing and feared dead after a volcanic eruption in New Zealand blasted the island with scalding steam and ash.

Search crews flying above the island saw “no signs of life” on White Island, also called Whakaari, as they waited for conditions to stabilize for landing and on-the-ground searches. Meanwhile, New Zealand police said they were opening a criminal investigation into the deaths of at least five tourists on the volcanic island.

Police Deputy Commissioner John Tims did not go into details of the criminal investigation but said it would sit alongside an investigation by health and safety regulators. The announcement indicates authorities are concerned safety standards may have been breached.

A question that figures to be at the forefront of the investigation: Why were tourists allowed on the island after seismic monitoring experts raised the volcano’s alert level last month.

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