Death toll from New Zealand volcano eruption rises to 17 | CBC News
The death toll from the volcanic eruption of New Zealand’s White Island rose to 17 after a person died in hospital over the weekend, police said on Monday.
“Police can confirm a further person has died in Middlemore Hospital last night [Sunday] following the Whakaari/White Island eruption,” a statement posted to the New Zealand police website read. The statement also includes the Maori name for White Island.
On Wednesday, police said they would be scaling down search operations for the two people still missing after a volcanic eruption last week, admitting the bodies may never be found.
The bodies of the two still missing and presumed dead, and believed to be in the waters around the island, are:
- Winona Langford, a 17-year-old Australian.
- Hayden Marshall-Inman, a 40-year-old New Zealand tour guide.
“We have not given up … but have reached a phase where we are literally at the hands of the sea,” New Zealand’s Deputy Police Commissioner Mike Clement told a news conference Wednesday in Whakatane, the town close to White Island.
“We have to wait for Mother Nature to produce those bodies … it may or it may not,” he added.
Clement said search operations will now be continued by regional officers while the nationally run teams would return.
He said experts believe the two missing bodies were washed out to sea. The tides in the area are such that if a body in the bay reached the open sea, they would be taken in the direction of East Cape, the tip of the North Island, he said.
There were 47 people on the White Island when it erupted on Dec. 9. Of them, 26 were still being treated at hospitals in New Zealand and Australia for severe burn injuries.
There has been criticism that people were allowed on the island, a popular destination for day trippers, given the risks of an active volcano. That has led to speculation the tragedy could lead to major changes for New Zealand’s thrill-seeker tourism industry.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said official inquiries by coroners and work safety regulators into the eruption could take up to a year, and will carry potential criminal penalties of up to five years in jail.