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AFP
December 15, 2019

Divers search for remaining bodies from NZ volcanic eruption

World

AFP
December 15, 2019

WELLINGTON: Divers searched seas around New Zealand’s volatile White Island on Saturday for two people still missing five days after the volcano erupted, as the death toll rose to 17. Police deputy commissioner John Tims said the divers faced "unique and challenging conditions" as they searched waters "with between zero and two metres visibility".

They were focusing on an area where a body was seen floating in the water earlier in the week. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, meanwhile, has called for a minute’s silence to be observed at 2.11pm (0111 GMT) on Monday in honour of the victims of the eruption.

"Together we can express our sorrow for those who have died and been hurt, and our support for their grieving families and friends," Ardern said, with the minute’s silence to start exactly one week after the eruption began. Of the 47 people on the island at the time of the eruption, the number killed rose to 17 with another fatality confirmed on Saturday, police said, without releasing details of name, age or nationality.

Another 27 remain in hospitals in New Zealand and Australia with 20 listed as being in a "critical" condition.

Scientists monitoring the island said the likelihood of another eruption over the weekend was decreasing but the risk remained.

"Their new calculation was that there is a 35-50 per percent chance of an eruption occurring," Natalia Deligne, a volcanic hazard and risk modeller, said.

The remains of six people were retrieved on Friday in a daring operation by elite soldiers with two military helicopters under threat of another blast. The recovery had been on hold for days as poisonous gases continued billowing from the volcanic vent and the island remained blanketed in a thick layer of acidic ash.

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