Death toll from New Zealand eruption rises to 16 as authorities continue harrowing mission to retrieve bodies from the island

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rescue mission new zealand volcano

New Zealand Defense Forces

  • New Zealand police said in a statement on Sunday that one person who was injured after one of New Zealand's most active volcanoes erupted on Monday has died from their injuries, bringing the total death toll from the incident to 16. 
  • New Zealand's geological monitoring agency, GeoNet, said the eruption began at around 2:11 p.m. local time on Whakaari, also known as White Island, a popular tourist spot which features an active volcano.
  • Police on Sunday said that two people remain missing. They are presumed dead.
  • Police on Friday said the environment was "highly unpredictable and challenging," during the rescue mission.
  • Police released the nationalities of 47 people who were on the island when the volcano erupted, which included 24 Australians, two Chinese nationals, four Germans, one Malaysian national, five New Zealanders, two people from the UK, and nine people from the US. 
  • Police say it is too early to confirm whether there will also be a criminal investigation on the circumstances which allowed large numbers of people to visit the volcano before its eruption.
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New Zealand police said in a statement on Sunday that one person who was injured after one of New Zealand's most active volcanoes erupted on Monday has died from their injuries, bringing the total death toll from the incident to 16. 

The unidentified victim was repatriated to Australia, where they died. 15 others died in New Zealand. 

Authorities on Friday recovered the bodies of six people, though two other people remain unaccounted for and are presumed dead.

Divers on Sunday continued their mission to rescue the remaining two bodies, though police said the retrieval efforts remained a "difficult and ongoing task." 

"While it is most likely that the two remaining bodies are in the water, we need to be sure," police said Sunday.

rescue mission ash

New Zealand Police

Two of the injured succumbed to their injuries in the hospital on Thursday.

26 people remain in hospitals in Australia and New Zealand with severe burns, and police previously said that identifying the victims would be a "complex matter."Around 186,000 square inches of skin are being brought in to treat the burn victims.

"We understand people's desire to recover their loved ones and we are working around the clock to get onto the island so we can recover them as soon as possible," police said Tuesday. "Based on the effects of the eruption on the bodies, this recovery will need to be handled with expert skill and care." 

Police say they are still working to confirm the identities of those who have died and who are injured. Police on Tuesday released the nationalities of 47 people who were on the island when the volcano erupted, which included 24 Australians, two Chinese nationals, four Germans, one Malaysian national, five New Zealanders, two people from the UK, and nine people from the US. 

rescue mission map

New Zealand Police

The eruption occurred at Whakaari, also known as White Island, a popular tourist spot located about 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the east coast of country's North Island.

White Island map

Screenshop/Google Maps

According to New Zealand's geological monitoring agency, GeoNet, the unexpected eruption began at around 2:11 p.m. local time on Monday and sent ash plumes 12,000 feet into the air.

Police previously said that "no signs of life have been seen at any point" by helicopters and rescue aircrafts flying over the Island. 

On Monday, Geonet said that there was still a 30-40% chance of an eruption occurring within the next 24 hours. 

GNS Science, New Zealand's geoscience agency said last week that the volcano was producing "vigorous steaming and localized mud jetting in several of the craters created by the eruption," which they interpreted as signs of continued high gas pressures within the volcano.

Police on suNDAY released the identities of some of the victims who died in The disaster: Matthew Hollander, 13, and his brother Berend Hollander, 16, both US citizens with Australian permanent residency,

The two boys attended Knox Grammar School in Sydney, The Guardian reported. The brothers were born in the US and moved from Chicago to Australia six years ago, ABC News reported.

Police on Monday announced that Martin Hollander, 48, the father of the two boys, was also killed in the incident. 

Several other victims were also named: Jessica Richards, 20, Jason Griffiths, 33, Kristine Langford, 45, and Karla Mathews, 32. They are all Australian citizens.

Whakaari, White Island

DigitalGlobe via Getty Images via Getty Images

Police added that it was too early to confirm whether there will also be a criminal investigation on the circumstances which allowed large numbers of people to visit the volcano before its eruption.

 

Prime Minister Jacinda Arden expressed her condolences for those affected at a press conference on Friday.

"This is a volcano that has been visited for the better part of 30 years. However, we also hear, and absolutely agree, that there are questions that are being asked that must be answered and they will be."

A no-fly zone has been established above the island. 

According to GNS Science, White Island has been New Zealand's most continuously active volcano for the last 40 years. 

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