New Zealand volcanic eruption site still ‘too dangerous’ for recovery effort

“Increased volcanic activity” on White Island is holding New Zealand police back from recovering the bodies of those presumed dead in Monday’s eruption.

Deputy Commissioner John Tims said in a statement that experts told police the chance of further eruption is “significant and it is too dangerous to return to the island.” 

Volcanic tremors on White Island were intensifying to a level not seen since an eruption in 2016, the GeoNet seismic monitoring agency said, calculating a 40 per cent to 60 per cent chance of another eruption within the next 24 hours.

Police have previously said they believe there were 47 people on the volcanic island when it erupted. Six deaths had been confirmed as of late Tuesday.

“We understand and appreciate the desire of families and the public for the bodies to be retrieved as soon as possible,” he said in the statement. Tims said the number confirmed as missing has increased to nine. Two of them are from New Zealand and seven from Australia, police said.

The New Zealand Herald notes there could be some overlap between the missing and the dead, as police work to confirm identities of all those believed to be on the island Monday.

A famed tourist attraction, the White Island volcano is one of several in New Zealand and thousands that encircle the Pacific.

A view of White Island from a helicopter after Monday’s eruption, in this photo obtained from social media. (Auckland Rescue Helicopter Trust/Reuters)