Risk of another volcano eruption delays recovery of bodies
The risk of another eruption on New Zealand's White Island is delaying the mission to recover the bodies of eight people believed to have been killed on Monday.
As treatment of the injured continues in hospitals across New Zealand and Australia, frustration is growing among families of the missing at the delay in launching the recovery operation.
While police released a list of nine people deemed missing yesterday, it was confirmed today eight remain on the island. All are presumed dead.
Volcanologist Nico Fournier, from the New Zealand's monitoring and research body GNS Science, said the risk of another eruption was between 40 and 60 per cent.
"This is still a highly risky operation," he said this morning.
"Because the volcano is not erupting, it doesn't mean it cannot erupt and the eruption probability is still very high."
NZ Police's officer in charge of the operation Mike Clement said he would not make the call to send in recovery teams until the risk of another eruption had lowered.
The Volcanic Alert Level was higher overnight than when the tour groups entered the island on Monday. It was reduced from Level 3 to Level 2 this morning.
"We have a level of activity on the island with the potential for further eruption that is unprecedented in the last couple of years, potentially longer, and I simply can't ignore that," Mr Clement said.
Mr Clement said he sympathised with the victims' families need to see their loved ones returned home.
"We are all equally committed to finding a solution that gets us safely onto the island to recover the people we believe to be deceased on the island and return those people after a DVI process to their whanau," he said.
"That is our highest priority and everyone is equally committed."
The bodies are believed to be located about a 15-minute walk from the shoreline in an area of around 200 square metres.
The danger to rescuers
Mr Fournier said another eruption would pose extreme risk to rescue crews.
"Very fast ballistics" hurtled from the volcano could see people "pummelled to death", he said.
Magma at "a few hundred degrees Celsius" or more would also burn those in the immediate area.
"We're talking about high-speed, high-impact and high-temperature impact on people," Mr Fournier said.
Patients arrive in Australia for treatment
Australian Defence Force planes have begun bringing home victims badly injured in the volcano eruption.
Patients have been transferred to Melbourne's The Alfred Hospital and Sydney's Concord Hospital for emergency treatment.
The exact number of patients is not yet known but more Australians are expected to be transferred today.
The effort is being coordinated by the federal agency Emergency Management Australia.
Brother hits out at recovery efforts
The brother of a New Zealand man believed to have died on White Island has slammed authorities over their "broken communications" with the family of the victims.
Hayden Marshall-Inman, from Whakatane, was filling in as a tour guide on the island when the volcano erupted.
His body, along with seven others, remains at the site.
Mark Inman told Today the past few days have been an "emotional rollercoaster full of frustration and grief".
"It's extremely frustrating given the fact that no one will make a call, people are employed in these high-powered roles, paid the good big money to make the calls, and they're not making the big enough calls," he said.
"We're listening to experts who sit behind a desk and produce results on stats and figures, versus the experts who fly onto the island, land on the island, guide the island and know the island inside out."
The Australian toll
Two schoolboys from Sydney are the latest to be confirmed dead in the disaster.
Knox Grammar said overnight students Matthew and Berend Hollander had died in hospital from injuries sustained in the eruption.
Their parents Matthew and Barbara remain unaccounted for.
Eight Australians are officially confirmed dead but that number is expected to rise. Confirmation on the final toll is not expected until all the bodies are retrieved from the island.
The other missing and dead Australians include:
- Coffs Harbour couple Karla Mathews, 32, and Richard Elzer, 32, who are believed to be among the eight still on the island.
- Their friend Jason Griffiths died in hospital with burns to 80 per cent of his body.
- Melbourne woman Krystal Browitt, 21, is missing and presumed dead.
- Adelaide man Gavin Dallow, 53, and his 15-year-old stepdaughter Zoe Hosking are also believed to have died on the island.
- Brisbane woman Julie Richards, 47, and her daughter Jessica, 20, were yesterday confirmed as the first Australian fatalities in the eruption.