New Zealand observes moment of silence 1 week after lethal volcanic eruption
Police identify 12 of 16 confirmed victims from White Island eruption
New Zealanders observed a minute's silence on Monday at the moment that a volcano erupted a week earlier, killing at least 16 people and leaving others with severe burns.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that wherever people were in New Zealand or around the world, it was an opportunity to stand alongside those who had lost loved ones in the tragedy.
"Together we can express our sorrow for those who have died and been hurt, and our support for their grieving families and friends," she said in a statement.
Two bodies have yet to be recovered from the eruption site on White Island, known in Maori as Whakaari, after land and sea searches have so far come up empty-handed. Police have said they will continue looking.
That has left the official death toll at 16, although authorities believe 18 people died, including several who died from their injuries in the week following the eruption in hospitals in New Zealand and Australia.
Most of the 47 people on the island at the time it erupted were tourists, including 24 Australian citizens and four more Australian residents.
Among the 12 identified victims are 15-year-old Zoe Hosking from Australia and her stepfather Gavin Dallow, 53, along with fellow Australian Anthony Langford, 51, and 24-year-old New Zealander Tipene Maangi. The first named victim was Krystal Browitt, a veterinary nursing student from Melbourne, Australia, who turned 21 on Nov. 29.
Police released seven additional names on Monday:
- Jason Griffiths, 33, Australia.
- Berend Hollander, 16, U.S. (Australian permanent resident).
- Martin Hollander, 48, Australia.
- Matthew Hollander, 13, U.S. (Australian permanent resident).
- Kristine Langford, 45, Australia.
- Karla Mathews, 32, Australia.
- Jessica Richards, 20, Australia.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australians would join New Zealanders in the moment of reflection at 2:11 p.m. local time.
On Sunday, two four-person teams landed on the island by helicopter early Sunday morning and searched a location thought to be the most likely place where one of the bodies might be. The teams, wearing heavy protective clothing, were using breathing apparatus that allowed them to search for only 75 minutes.
They were unable to locate either body and returned to the New Zealand mainland where they underwent decontamination after being exposed to toxic ash and gases.
"We have always anticipated recovering all bodies from the island and we remain deeply committed to that goal to allow families some closure," Police Deputy Commissioner John Tims said.
Later Sunday, divers were due to resume their search of waters around the island despite near zero visibility that hampered their efforts on Saturday. Rescue teams had reported seeing a body in the sea a day after the Dec.9 eruption.
Ash and other fallout from the eruption has made the sea near the island toxic and divers have to be washed clean after every completed dive.
Tims called search conditions "unique and challenging."
"Divers have reported seeing a number of dead fish and eels washed ashore and floating in the water, " he said.
With files from Reuters