In a high-risk operation watched by thousands of grieving family members waiting on the mainland, a New Zealand military team recovered 6 bodies from the volcanic island on Friday that fatally erupted earlier this week.
Military personnel operated as quickly as possible after using helicopters to land on White Island, which, according to experts, still has a 50-60% risk of another eruption in the coming hours.
Six of the island’s eight bodies have been safely picked up and taken to a naval patrol boat, police said. Upon arrival, rescue teams had good knowledge of the position of the six. The other two’s whereabouts were less certain, and when those bodies would be retrieved were unknown.
“It his an incredibly difficult operation but is a priority,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern states Australian Broadcasting Radio Corp on Friday morning. “We just want to bring loved ones home.”
The volcano, a popular day-trippers tourist destination, erupted on Monday, spewing ash and steam across the island. Australian, German, Chinese, British, and Malaysian visitors were among the 47 people on the island at the time.
Official Death Toll Rose to 8
The official death toll is at eight as the island’s bodies list as missing until they have been officially identified. There are more than two hundred more patients in hospitals across New Zealand and Australia, most of them with severe burn wounds.
Before the mission got launch, a blessing is at sea with the families of the victims. On the shoreline of the town of Whakatane on the North Island of New Zealand, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) west of the island, about 100 members of the family and local community prayed and sang together as they watched helicopters enter and leave the island.
Boz Te Moana, 24, and Michael Mika, 28, traveled higher up the Whakatane River from their homes to stand where the river meets the sea and support families at the marae, a Maori community center.
“Where we come from we don’t leave anyone behind, no one gets left behind,” Te Moana said of his Maori community. “We all move as one.”
Weather conditions, both at sea and on the island, were good for recovery, police said. But due to the extensive protective equipment the recovery team needed to wear, the operation took longer than expected.
Military Team Hunts Down 6 Bodies
Police gave statement earlier on Thursday that on White Island. 6 bodies recover and “very limited” time to hunt for the other two, police states.
Authorities got pressure from victims ‘ families. The broader local community to retrieve the bodies as quickly as possible. The operation got delay repeatedly due to the risk posed to the operation’s participants.
New Zealand’s Geological Science Agency GNS Science predicts another risk. They put a 50 percent to 60 percent risk of another eruption over the next 24 hours.
There has also been criticism of the fact that. Ardern has announced a tragedy investigation that will address such broader issues.
“It’s a very unpredictable volcano,” she told ABC radio on Friday. “Having said that, that’s not sufficient in terms of explanation. As to whether or not the right checks and balances were in place.”