New Zealand Resumes Mission to Retrieve Remaining Bodies After Volcanic Eruption

By Reuters
December 13, 2019World News
New Zealand Resumes Mission to Retrieve Remaining Bodies After Volcanic Eruption
Rescue crew are seen at the White Island volcano, also known by its Maori name Whakaari, in New Zealand, on Dec. 13, 2019. (New Zealand Defence Force/Handout via Reuters)

WELLINGTON—New Zealand police said on Saturday they would search in the waters near the volcanic White Island in their attempts to retrieve two remaining bodies, following a fatal eruption earlier this week.

The remains of six people were successfully retrieved on Friday after a military team in gas masks and hazmat suits went on to the volcano and removed the bodies in a high-risk operation.

Police said they could not retrieve the remains of two more people, but were able to spot at least one body in the waters not too far from the shore.

“The Police Dive Squad and Navy divers this morning resumed their search for a body seen in the water on Tuesday,” police said in a statement.

The police said they will not be returning to the island for a land-based search on Saturday, adding that they were analyzing all information available and assessing possible next steps.

“Today’s planning will allow us to return to the island to conduct further land-based searches for the remaining deceased, as the environment on and around the island allows,” police said.

“There will be no return to the island today,” it added in the statement.

NTD Photo
Smoke from the volcanic eruption of Whakaari, also known as White Island, is pictured from a boat, New Zealand on Dec. 9, 2019 in this picture grab obtained from a social media video. (INSTAGRAM @ALLESSANDROKAUFFMANN/via Reuters)
NTD Photo
This aerial photo shows White Island after its volcanic eruption in New Zealand Monday, Dec. 9, 2019. The volcano on a small New Zealand island frequented by tourists erupted Monday, and a number of people were missing and injured after the blast. (George Novak/New Zealand Herald via AP)

The volcano, a popular tourist destination for day-trippers, erupted on Monday, Dec. 9, spewing ash, steam and gases over the island. Among the 47 people on the island at the time were Australian, U.S., German, Chinese, British and Malaysian tourists.

The death toll from the eruption is now at 14, with two bodies on the island still classified as missing.

More than two dozen people are in hospitals across New Zealand and Australia, most with severe burn injuries.

Authorities have faced growing pressure in recent days from families of some victims to recover the bodies as soon as possible.

There has also been criticism that tourists were allowed on the island at all, given the risks of an active volcano.

By Praveen Menon

ntd newsletter icon
Sign up for NTD Daily
What you need to know, summarized in one email.
Stay informed with accurate news you can trust.
By registering for the newsletter, you agree to the Privacy Policy.