Eruption fears halt plans to get bodies off volcano

Updated: 12 December, 2019 13:47 IST | Agencies | Whakatane

The official death toll after Monday's explosion on White Island stands at six, with police listing another nine as missing, up from the previous figure of eight

In this combo made from two satellite images taken May 12, 2019, left, and December 11, 2019 (right), by Maxar Technologies, steam rises from the volcano on White Island. Pic/AP
In this combo made from two satellite images taken May 12, 2019, left, and December 11, 2019 (right), by Maxar Technologies, steam rises from the volcano on White Island. Pic/AP

Whakatane: Fears of another eruption at the New Zealand volcano believed to have killed 15 people made it too dangerous for emergency teams to recover bodies, police said Wednesday, as doctors fought to save survivors who suffered horrific burns.

The official death toll after Monday's explosion on White Island stands at six, with police listing another nine as missing, up from the previous figure of eight.

Their bodies are thought to be on the island, but it remains too hazardous for rescuers to travel there, and for forensic pathologists, odontologists and other victim identification experts to begin their work.

"Every day that passes with those bodies unrecovered is a day of anguish for their loved ones... but right now, the science tells us that the risk is just too high," Civil Defence emergency director Sarah Stuart-Black said.

Health officials said 22 survivors still being treated in hospital burns units around the country remained in a critical condition requiring airway support.

They said an extra 1.2 million square centimetres (1,300 square foot) of skin for grafts was being sent from Australia and the United States to treat burns victims.

When the volcano exploded it is believed to have sent superheated steam, ash and cannonball-like rocks hurtling from the caldera at supersonic speed.

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First Published: 12 December, 2019 12:28 IST

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