'It's possible that not all of the patients will survive'

  • Five confirmed dead and eight people are still missing on the island - there are no signs of life
  • ​There were 47 people in total on Whakaari, 38 of them were from the cruise ship Ovation of the Seas
  • Of the 47, 2 are from the UK, 4 are from Germany, 24 from Australia, 5 from New Zealand, 2 from China, 1 from Malaysia and 9 from the United States
  • PM Jacinda Ardern describes today's grim task as a 'recovery option': 'Our duty is to return loved ones'
  • 34 injured people and five bodies were taken off the island by heroic rescuers in the face of extreme danger, she said
  • 31 people are in hospital. Of them, 25 are now in four regional burns units, while 6 will be transferred to a burns unit asap. Three other people have been treated and discharged
  • The age range of the victims is from 13 to 72. Most are visitors to New Zealand
  • Recovery operation on island hampered by significant ash fall after a double explosion in yesterday's eruption

Ministry of Health spokesperson Pete Watson said today 31 people were injured in the eruption and "it is possible that not all of the patients will survive."

Police said it would investigate the incident on behalf of the coroner in parallel with a WorkSafe New Zealand investigation.

To correct an earlier statement, it is too early to confirm whether there will also be a criminal investigation, police said.

Boats got as close as they could to rescue survivors after the White Island eruption yesterday. Photo: Westpac Helicopter
Boats got as close as they could to rescue survivors after the White Island eruption yesterday. Photo: Westpac Helicopter

Police Deputy Commissioner John Tims  said thirteen people are believed killed and others are fighting for their lives with serious burns after the devastating White Island eruption - and experts are warning of more volcanic activity.

Five people are now confirmed dead and eight others presumed to have perished when the country's most active volcano exploded in a shower of steam, rock and ash just after 2pm on Monday.

Bodies covered in ash

Police Deputy Commissioner John Tims answered a few more questions about a picture of the island that had markings about where bodies could potentially be.

There were six markings currently, likely to be six bodies, but two more people are missing.

The bodies of the dead are “certainly” covered in ash, Tims said.

When asked how confident he was that they could recover the bodies from the island, Tims said: “We’re doing everything we possibly can. We know the importance of recovering the bodies to the families and friends, so we’re working really hard in that space.”

He said those efforts would be co-ordinated to ensure the safety of those involved.

A drone is to fly over and capture readings of the gasses which will be analysed and then the safety of the island will be assessed.

He said police were talking with Fire and Emergency NZ and the Defence Force but it would ultimately be his decision about when to return to the island.

Yesterday’s flights were looking for movement on the island, Tims said. He was unsure of the exact time someone last set foot on the island yesterday but would “strongly suggest” that no one on the island had survived.

“I would base that on the fact that those brave people that went across to the island yesterday and rescued a number of people said that they could not see anyone that was alive.”

The names and information of the dead will be released in coming days. Tims said police were working hard on that.

Tims said the primary objective was to get back to the island.

"It’s what we need to do, it’s important for the family, it’s important for the friends… We’re going to do everything we possibly can.”

Police later said in a statement it is investigating the death of the individuals on Whakaari / White Island on behalf of the coroner.

"To correct an earlier statement, it is too early to confirm whether there will also be a criminal investigation. 

"The police investigation on behalf of the coroner will be carried out in parallel with a WorkSafe New Zealand investigation.

"WorkSafe New Zealand has opened a health and safety investigation into the harm and loss of life caused by the eruption."

'It is possible that not all of the patients will survive'

Ministry of Health spokesperson Pete Watson expressed deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and profound thanks to responders. 

The age range of the victims is from 13 to 72. Most are visitors to New Zealand.

"Of the 31 people injured, 25 are now in four regional burns units. Six patients will also be transferred to a burns unit asap."

Twenty-seven people need the highest care that can be provided, suffering burns to more than 30 per cent of the surface area of their body. The number of those in a critical condition are “in the 20s”, he said.

Those suffering burns require additional care because of the ash and gas inhaled.

Eight are in the Christchurch burns unit, eight are in Waikato, five are in Hutt Valley and four are at Auckland's Middlemore Hospital burns unit.

A further four people are in Tauranga Hospital and two in Auckland and will be transferred to a burns unit as soon as there is room for them.

No overseas surgeons are currently being flown in.

Some Australians who are well enough to travel are being transferred to burn units in Australia.

Many of the survivors have sustained severe injuries. Many have inhalation burns that require airways support.

"Its important not to underestimate the gravity of the injuries suffered."

Watson said it had been a year's worth of work in one day at Middlemore Hospital in terms of response.

“It is possible that not all of the patients will survive. But at this stage everybody is receiving the care that they require,” he said.

Ovation of the Seas delays departure

Port of Tauranga has confirmed the Ovation of the Seas will not leave the city tonight, as planned.

The cruise ship, which has passengers among the dead, hurt and missing from the White Island eruption, was scheduled to sail out at 6.15pm today.

A port spokeswoman confirmed the ship will stay due to police operational matters.

The ship now has a provisional depart time of 7.15am tomorrow.

 

 

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