Having lost both my parents just a few days before Christmas 30 years later made my heart go out to the many families who were impacted by this tragedy. It took me many years before I was able to feel joy at the holiday season since Christmas lights, music and foods all reminded me of funerals. I imagine many of the families of those lost in this disaster may have experienced the same thing.
There were parallels between this accident and the loss of the Titanic that occurred in 1912, in that most of the first class passengers survived while few of those in the following second class cars did:
"The weather on Christmas Eve was fine and with little recent rain, no one suspected flooding in the Whangaehu River. When a goods train crossed the bridge around 7 p.m. the river appeared normal. What transformed the situation was the sudden release of approximately 2 million cubic metres of water from the crater lake of nearby Mt Ruapehu. A 6-metre-high wave containing water, ice, mud and rocks surged, tsunami-like, down the Whangaehu River. Sometime between 10.10 and 10.15 p.m. this lahar struck the concrete pylons of the Tangiwai railway bridge.
The 1945 eruption had far reaching effects, resulting in the loss of 151 lives on December 24th, 1953. When the eruption occurred the crater lake was emptied, and the outlet dammed. Over time the crater refilled and the dam collapsed causing a lahar (mudflow and water) in the Whangaehu River. The lahar undermined the Tangiwai railway bridge piers, and the bridge collapsed when an express train crossed it.
Through 1995 and 1996 Mount Ruapehu erupted several times closing the skifields and occasionally the airports. The possibility of a major lahar occurring again was recognised as the crater lake outlet became blocked once more in 1996 by volcanic ash. Authorities are constantly monitoring the volcano and determining measures of safely controlling the situation, should the dam brake again.
The three volcanos in Tongariro National Park —Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro—are very much alive. This part of the world is indeed part of the "Ring of Fire"
|Image from National Geographic|
The Ring of Fire isn’t quite a circular ring. It is shaped more like a 40,000-kilometer (25,000-mile) horseshoe. A string of 452 volcanoes stretches from the southern tip of South America, up along the coast of North America, across the Bering Strait, down through Japan, and into New Zealand." (National Geographic)The near-perfect conical shape of Ngauruhoe was the basis for Mount Doom in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings movie trilogy (with some significant computer enhancement).