Members of a dive squad conduct a search during a recovery operation around White IslandImage copyright

Image caption

Divers are searching the waters around White Island volcano

Divers have resumed searching the waters near White Island volcano in New Zealand in efforts to retrieve two remaining bodies, police say.

The team faced “unique and challenging conditions” as they looked for a body spotted in the water. Rescuers will not land on the island on Saturday.

A day earlier, the remains of six bodies were recovered in an operation and sent to Auckland to be identified.

Fourteen deaths have been confirmed from Monday’s eruption.

Around 20 people remain in intensive care with severe burns in New Zealand and Australia.

Nine members of the Police National Dive Squad were searching the area around White Island, also known by its Maori name of Whakaari, police said. Conditions in the water were “not optimal”, with visibility between zero and two metres (6.5ft) in some places.

“The water around the island is contaminated, requiring the divers to take extra precautions to ensure their safety, including using specialist protective equipment,” Deputy Commissioner John Tims said in a statement. “Each time they surface, the divers are decontaminated using fresh water.”

The divers, Mr Tims added, also reported seeing a number of dead fish and eels washed ashore and floating in the water.

Personnel from the Navy dive team are due to join the operation later.

Meanwhile, police confirmed that Krystal Eve Browitt from Australia was one of the victims. The 21-year-old veterinary student – previously listed as missing – was on the island with her father and sister, who were both badly burned, according to a fundraising page set up by a family friend.

The bodies being retrieved will be examined in Auckland by experts including a pathologist, a forensic dentist and a fingerprint officer. “This is a long and complex process and we are working as quickly as possible to return loved ones to their families,” Mr Tims said.

Police will gather information about possible victims, such as descriptions of appearance, clothing, photos, fingerprints, medical and dental records and DNA samples. These details will then be matched to the evidence gathered in the post-mortem examination.

How did Friday’s operation unfold?

A “high-speed” retrieval to get the bodies was launched even though the risk of another eruption remained. Going in, authorities knew the location of six of the missing and those bodies were airlifted off the island.

A team of eight specialists from the New Zealand Defence Force flew by helicopter to the island and spent four hours retrieving the bodies. They were taken to a naval patrol boat and then brought back to the mainland.

Volcanologists had warned that if the volcano erupted while they were on the island, the team could face magma, superheated steam, ash and rocks thrown at high speed. The specialists who went to the island were wearing protective clothing and breathing apparatus.

Speaking to reporters after the bodies were retrieved, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said questions over why people were allowed to visit the active volcano “must be answered, and will be answered”.

But she said “we also need to respect the phase we’re in now, with families only just getting their loved ones back”.

How were the others saved?

Out of the 47 people on the island when the eruption happened, 24 were from Australia, nine from the US, five from New Zealand, four from Germany, two from China, two from the UK, and one from Malaysia.

After the eruption, most of the visitors were taken off the island in dramatic rescue efforts. Some tourist boats already on the way to the mainland turned back to take in those stranded.

Meanwhile, commercial pilots headed back to the island – as the eruption was ongoing – to look for survivors. Many of those who made it off the island were severely injured and burnt.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media caption“Toxic gases and ash”: The BBC’s Shaimaa Khalil flies around White Island


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.