Injured Australians To Be Flown Home From New Zealand
The Australians injured in the New Zealand volcano tragedy are being flown home to receive medical treatment, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed.
The government on Wednesday revealed it had activated an emergency repatriation plan to bring the injured Australians back home, with the first patients to be transported to NSW and Victoria.
Morrison said while the government hoped the transfers would begin On Thursday, they were still waiting on medical approval in New Zealand in order to ensure it was safe to move the patients, who have suffered severe burns.
He said the priority was to provide immediate clinical care for those most in need.
The government is sending over aircraft as part of the repatriation process.
"Our hearts go out to all of the Australians and their families caught up in this tragedy, and our Kiwi cousins across the Tasman," Morrison said.
"This is a time of immense grief and great sorrow for everyone involved."
Morrison said he was not in a position to confirm the identities of those Australians who are unaccounted for and those who are deceased.
However, confirmation has come from two Australian families who are grieving the deaths of their loved ones.
Adelaide man Gavin Dallows was found dead while his daughter Zoe Hosking is presumed dead with her body still on White Island, their devastated family said.
Zoe's mum, Lisa, remains in an induced coma with burns to 57 per cent of her body.
Brisbane's Julie Richards, 47, and her daughter Jessica, 20, were also confirmed dead on Wednesday.
Their relatives will now fly to New Zealand's North Island to retrieve the women.
Too Dangerous To Recover Bodies
Six people have so far been confirmed deceased following the eruption.
The sixth victim, who has not yet been formally identified, was being treated at Middlemore Hospital and died on Tuesday.
Authorities in New Zealand said the bodies of victims still on White Island cannot be recovered yet, as there’s a high chance the volcano will erupt again in the next 24 hours.
Speaking to reporters Graham Leonard from GNS Science warned that tremors and seismic signals were escalating on the island.
"As of 11 am our expert estimates a risk of 40 - 60 per cent of another eruption like Monday in the next 24 hours," Leonard said.
"In summary, yesterday there was a high risk of an eruption. Today, there is an even higher risk of an eruption. "
NZ Deputy Police Commissioner John Tims said the increased risk had stalled recovery efforts of the bodies still on the island because it is too dangerous for emergency services teams to get to the island.
"Those deployed would face serious physical and chemical hazards and we must be prepared for that," Tims said.
Authorities acknowledged the additional stress the delay of bringing back bodies would have on the families of missing loved ones.
"We understand the importance of us returning to that island for all of New Zealanders. This is not just something that is impacting on us here in New Zealand but this is impacting around the world," Tims said.
"We are absolutely committed and we will deliver on the promise of the return to the island."
NZ Police said they remain "focused on supporting families at this terrible time".
Forty-seven people were on the island when the volcano erupted. Rescue crews do not believe there will be any more survivors on the island.