Six Bodies Found On White Island In Risky Recovery Mission
New Zealand Police have confirmed six bodies have been recovered from White Island.
NZ Police deputy commissioner John Tims said the bodies were airlifted from the island and then transported to navy ship HMNZS Wellington.
"The operation to recover the bodies from Whakaari / White Island is progressing and the team is well advanced with the recovery of the bodies," Tims said on Friday morning.
Police said all recovery team members have returned safely to the mainland and that the mission went according to plan.
Authorities were only able to recover six of the eight bodies on the island. An NZ Police dive team was deployed late on Friday morning to search water around the island in an effort to locate the two remaining victims.
"We do believe that at least one of them is in the water and the other one, we are unsure. So that leaves two possibilities, what is still on the island and we have not located them or they, too, are in the water," NZ Police Commissioner Mike Bush said on Friday.
Aerial searches above White Island will also be conducted on Friday afternoon.
Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne confirmed six bodies were bought back from White Island on Friday. She said New Zealand officials plan to recover the renaming two at a later date.
"There are still two remaining bodies on White Island. Due to the circumstances, due to the limitations of equipment and the need to complete the operation within a particular period of time ... the New Zealand authorities have indicated they will return as soon as it is possible to endeavour to retrieve others who remain on the island," Payne told media.
Families of victims who have been recovered now anxiously wait for news that their loved one has returned.
Whakatane locals performed a Haka as the mission to recover the eight people presumed dead on White Island got underway in the early hours of Friday morning.
Around 100 people gathered at the water's edge to hold a vigil while recovery personnel set off for the Island as first light broke.
The risky recovery mission started despite the 50-60 percent chance of a second volcanic eruption.
"Today is less safe than yesterday, and the day before that," volcanologist Dr Graham Leonard told the BBC.
At least eight people were left on the Island following Monday's eruption. All were presumed dead. Eight others have been confirmed dead by New Zealand authorities and a further 17 are still receiving treatment for burns in hospital, 13 of which are in a critical condition.
Eight specialists from the New Zealand Defence Force set off on Friday morning to recover all remaining bodies as quickly as possible. When they arrived at White Island, they were given protective clothing and breathing apparatus.
A geologist monitored seismic activity in real-time as recovery personnel stepped onto the island and was able to advise if the mission needed to be abandoned.
Flights over the Island conducted before the recovery mission started located six of the eight bodies. Those six were the first priority.
“We know exactly where (the six) are. So our first priority will be to get those six people,” Deputy Police Commissioner Mike Clement said on Thursday.
“We can’t find anything more than six. That’s not to say they aren’t there. We will have very limited opportunity to look about for one or two others.”
Police say the bodies were around 300 metres from the crater and were gathered in small clusters. It's a 15 minute walk from the shore to the place where the bodies were.
Families of the victims boarded a boat at dawn on Friday morning and were ferried close to White Island so they were able to witness the rescue operation as it is carried out from a distance. They also performed a blessing at while at sea in the Bay of Plenty.
Australian Death Toll At White Island
Eleven Australians have been transferred to Australia after Monday's volcanic eruption. NSW Health confirmed on Friday morning that eight Australians have now been repatriated across the Tasman from New Zealand to the state. Two more patients are expected to arrive in NSW on Friday.
Five people are being treated at Sydney's Concord Hospital and another three are at Royal North Shore Hospital.
Three patients have been flow from New Zealand to Melbourne for burns treatment.
Some patients are in life-threatening conditions and are receiving intensive critical care.
“The patients under our care have been exposed to a fast-moving cloud of very hot volcanic gas and volcanic matter such as pumice and ash,” Head of Department of Operating Theatres and Plastic Surgery at Concord Hospital Dr Peter Haertsch said.
"As a result, they have suffered severe contact skin burns with severe injuries due to inhalation of gas and ash, and we are looking at extensive and intensive care for these patients, some of whom are still in a life-threatening condition."
The bodies of four Australians confirmed dead -- Jessica Richards and her mother Julie and Coffs Harbour couple Richard Elzer and Karla Matthews -- are believed to have been on the island, along with New Zealanders Tipene Maangi and Hayden Inman.
Adelaide schoolgirl Zoe Hosking and 21-year-old Melbourne woman Krystal Browitt were also presumed dead on White Island, although their deaths have not been officially announced.
Zoe Hosking's mother Lisa Dallow has been transferred to the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne while the 15-year-old's stepfather Gavin Dallow, 53, was confirmed dead on Wednesday.
Coffs Harbour man Jason Griffiths and teenaged Sydney brothers Matthew and Berend Hollander are among the eight Australians confirmed dead, having died in hospital.
Matthew, 13, and Berend, 16, have been remembered fondly by their Sydney school Knox Grammar, while their parents Martin and Barbara are still unaccounted for.
Relatives of the Langford family from Sydney have indicated on social media they believe father Anthony, mother Kristine and daughter Winona, 17, have died, while 19-year-old Jesse survived.
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