New Zealand to return for two bodies remaining on volcanic island

Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement

Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement

The fountain of liquid magma on White Island was "exceptionally unpredictable" and could eject again inside days, said, specialists.

Wally Haumaha, deputy police commissioner, said the families were pleased when they were told about the successful recovery of six bodies, and expressed joy and relief.

Among those who were able to escape, at least 26 remained hospitalized on Thursday with burns over at least 30 percent of their bodies.

Six Australians are confirmed to have died after Monday's eruption on the island and another six bodies, all believed to be Australian, have been recovered for formal identification.

Most of those who survived are now back home under the care of Australian specialists.

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During tours to White Island, visitors can walk to the live crater wearing gas masks, with one brochure boasting of the opportunity to see bubbling pits and steam vents up close.

New Zealand defence personnel will continue their mission to retrieve two more bodies, believed to be Kiwi tour guides, which they couldn't find on Friday. Two local helicopter pilots who landed on the island shortly after the eruption and rescued people from the shore have said conditions were ideal for an operation they said would not take more than 20 minutes to complete.

"My officials are advising me that this is a time of absolute desperation and distress and to every single one of those families and their friends and their loved ones our hearts go out at this extraordinarily hard time", she told reporters on Friday.

The cruise ship, Ovation of the Seas, which had passengers and crew caught up in Monday's eruption - while docked in the region's port Tauranga - has reached the Marlborough Sounds in the South Island, reported New Zealand media.

In the days ahead, Australia would have to contend with the return of bodies. The six bodies recovered on Friday were in addition to those of eight others that rescuers had transported off the island in the immediate aftermath of the eruption.

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There will be a limited time frame to search for the other two bodies.

Both WorkSafe New Zealand and the coroner have opened investigations into the disaster, including whether proper risk assessments were carried out.

Sydney's Hollander brothers Berend, 16, and Matthew, 13, and Coffs Harbour man Jason Griffiths died in hospital from their horrific burns, while Adelaide man Gavin Dallow, 53, was declared dead on Wednesday.

A blessing was held at sea with the victims' families before the mission was launched. Their parents, Martin and Barbara Hollander, remain missing.

Family have indicated the Langfords' son Jesse, 19, survived. (Family/Knox Grammar School via AP) New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, left, watches as Col. Rian McKinstry addresses a press conference following the recovery operation to return the victims of the Dec. 9 volcano eruption off the coast of Whakatane New Zealand, Friday, Dec. 13, 2019. "I need that job to be done properly and [families and the community] deserve to have their questions answered". "We can not downplay the risk involved in this operation and I acknowledge the efforts of all those who placed themselves potentially in danger to achieve a result for the families and community".

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"We know that reunification won't ease that sense of loss or grief because I don't think anything can".

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