New Zealand military unit recovers 6 bodies days after volcanic eruption

15 Décembre, 2019, 01:26 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • White Island

The eight specialists who wore protective gear and used breathing apparatus landed by helicopter and found six of the bodies that were believed to have remained on White Island since the Monday breakout. The fountain of liquid magma on White Island was "exceptionally unpredictable" and could eject again inside days, said, specialists.

Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement said earlier that six bodies had been sighted from the air during drone flights, but that rescuers might find it hard to find the other two.

Police Commissioner Mike Bush told media this afternoon that while this morning's successful recovery of six bodies from the island went to plan, the mission was not over yet.

An attempt to reach one body in the water had to be abandoned after the weather conditions deteriorated.

Friday's operation was just the latest stage of a days-long operation, involving air surveillance by fixed-wing aircraft, helicopter support including for patient transfers since Monday night, bomb disposal experts, disaster victim identification teams, and further back-up from HMNZS Wellington and the navy's Seasprite helicopters.

They are among up to 15 Australians killed by the heat, ash and toxic gases that enveloped the island following Monday's eruption.

Within four hours they had ventured to the treacherous centre of the island and returned to stable land - recovering six bodies.

"This is a time of absolute desperation and distress and to every single one of those families and their friends and their loved ones our hearts go out at this extraordinarily hard time", Payne said in Sydney.

The whereabouts of the other two were less certain because of equipment constraints.

The official death toll stands at eight as the bodies on the island have been classified as missing until they are formally identified.

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But there was confusion and consternation early in the day when Australia's foreign minister Marise Payne declared all six bodies were Australians.

The eight are thought to be six Australians and two New Zealanders, both tour guides. The bodies were flown to a ship near the island off New Zealand's east coast, where scientists and other police and military personnel oversaw the risky operation.

Information from families and friends indicate 10 Australians have been confirmed dead or presumed dead, while fears are held for five more.

Sydney's Hollander brothers Berend, 16, and Matthew, 13, and Coffs Harbour man Jason Griffiths died in hospital from their horrific burns, while Adelaide man Gavin Dallow, 53, was declared dead on Wednesday.

Families of victims of the White Island eruption embrace after arriving back to the Whakatane wharf following a blessing at sea.

Extended family have indicated the Langfords' son Jesse, 19, survived.

She said there were also four permanent residents of Australia who had been caught up in the eruption.

"We know that reunification won't ease that sense of loss or grief because I don't think anything can".

Tourist Michael Schade wrote on Twitter as he posted video of the eruption that his "family and I had gotten off it 20 minutes before, were waiting at our boat about to leave when we saw it. Boat ride home tending to people our boat rescued was indescribable".

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