NZ resumes mission to retrieve bodies from volcano

NZ resumes mission to retrieve bodies from volcano

Police divers returned to the waters around New Zealand's volcanic Whakaari island at dawn on Saturday to search for the remaining two victims of an eruption that left at least 16 dead and dozens severely burned.

Six of the eight bodies on the island were successfully retrieved and taken to a naval patrol vessel for transfer to the mainland for disaster victim identification.

Police Deputy Commissioner Wally Haumaha said the families cheered when they were told of the successful recovery of six bodies and expressed joy and relief.

Scientists have warned that gases on the island are so toxic and corrosive that a single inhalation could be fatal.

Meanwhile, Coronial Services in Auckland continues to work through the robust process to formally identify tupapaku (the deceased) which allows them to be reunited with their loved ones.

"We know at least one body is in the water and divers on the Police launch Deodar are now attempting to recover this body", Bush said on Friday afternoon.

Special forces commander Rian McKinstry said he was "incredibly proud" of the team, who had to deal with heat stress as they prepared the bodies to be airlifted out. In the town touted as the gateway to White Island, the volcano has an nearly mystical significance, its regular puffing a feature of the landscape.

That has delayed the recovery of the last victims since Monday's eruption, which occurred as 47 tourists and their guides were exploring the island.

Nearly everyone on the island at the time of the eruption was killed or injured - and dozens are still undergoing treatment for serious burns.

New Zealand's volcano monitoring service GeoNet said Friday that there is still a 50% to 60% chance of another eruption in the next 24 hours.

"This is a long and complex process and we are working as quickly as possible to return loved ones to their families", Tims said. New Zealand has ordered 1,292 square feet (120 square meters) of skin to treat patients injured in the eruption, authorities said Wednesday.

"But it was just an opportunity, as they said, regardless of whether we're from Australia or New Zealand or wherever, that the moment we're one whanau (family) and will mourn everybody as if they are our own".

Specialist medical teams were heading to New Zealand from Australia, Britain and the United States.

After the eruption, most of the visitors were taken off the island in dramatic rescue efforts.

It confirmed that it would cover all emergency and hospital care for global visitors injured in New Zealand while funeral grants and survivor grants are available to the overseas families of visitors who died as a result of injuries in the country.

The operation began early Friday motning, nearly four days after the eruption which claimed the lives of 16 people and injured 30, most still in critical condition, reports The New Zealand Herald.

A further eruption in the next day still remains a possibility, the agency said, noting volcanic tremors are rising and steam and mud were being vented regularly.

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