White Island volcano: Death toll rises to eight, police say
Two people who were being treated in hospital after the eruption of New Zealand’s White Island volcano have died, bringing the official number of victims to eight, police say.
Nine people are still officially missing, presumed dead, and efforts to retrieve bodies from the island were put on hold on Wednesday amid signs of increased seismic activity.
Another 20 people are in intensive care with severe burns. One has been moved to Australia.
The identities of the two victims were not confirmed. Police said one had been treated at Middlemore Hospital and one at Waikato Hospital.The volcano, also known as Whakaari, erupted on Monday when dozens of tourists were on the island.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said: “I’ve spoken to many of those involved in the operation and they are very, very eager to get back there, they want to bring people’s loved ones home”.
White Island is a popular tourist destination with frequent day tours and scenic flights available. At least 47 visitors from around the world were on the volcano crater at the time of two explosions in quick succession.
Police Minister Stuart Nash explained the injuries to the survivors were so severe that some of them were unable to identify themselves. “There are a number of people in hospital who cannot communicate, they have significant burns not only to skin but internal organs,” he told Radio New Zealand.
“We wish them the best but we’re not out of the woods yet, of that there’s no doubt.” Dr Peter Watson, chief medical officer at New Zealand’s National Burns Unit, said an estimated 1.2m sq cm of replacement skin would be needed for the patients. An order has been placed from the US.
Several patients would be transferred to Australia by the Australian Defence Force using an intensive-care acceptable aircraft, Dr Watson said. (BBC)