Written by Reuters
13 Dec, 2019 | 2:32 pm
Reuters: A New Zealand military team in gas masks and hazmat suits recovered six bodies on Friday (December 13) from the volcanic island that fatally erupted earlier this week, as doctors worked to save badly burned survivors.
An eight-person bomb disposal squad set off before dawn and spent four hours on White Island, which experts said could erupt again.
Six of the eight bodies on the island were successfully retrieved and taken to a naval patrol vessel for transfer to the mainland for disaster victim identification.
“Today was all about returning them to their loved ones,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a media conference in Whakatane, the mainland coastal town where about 100 family and local community members prayed and sang together.
“We know that reunion won’t ease that sense of loss, of suffering because I don’t think anything can but we felt an enormous sense of duty as New Zealanders to bring their loved ones home.”
The team was unable to find and recover the remaining two bodies as the cumbersome protective equipment they needed to wear slowed down the tricky operation.
Police said dive teams deployed in the waters around the island, which is also known by its Maori name of Whakaari, had not found anything and would try again on Saturday (December 14).
The volcano, a popular tourist destination for day-trippers, erupted on Monday (December 9), spewing ash, steam, and gases over the island. Among the 47 people on the island at the time were Australian, U.S., German, Chinese, British and Malaysian tourists.
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