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Death toll of New Zealand volcano eruption rises to 16 as victim dies in hospital

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Members of a dive squad conduct a search during a recovery operation around White Island
Members of a dive squad conduct a search during a recovery operation around White Island   -  
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New Zealand Police/via REUTERS
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The death toll from a fatal volcanic eruption in New Zealand rose to 16, police said on Sunday, as one more victim died in an Australian hospital.

That death is the first to occur in Australia following the eruption, where many of the victims were from and have been transferred.

Meanwhile, recovery teams returned to the volcanic White Island on Sunday but were unable to locate two remaining bodies in their search.

Authorities said eight police search and rescue staff were deployed for 75 minutes to an area in which their information suggested one body may remain.

On Friday, six bodies were successfully retrieved from the island by a New Zealand military team and taken to the mainland for disaster victim identification.

First victim named

New Zealand police on Saturday named the first victim of the eruption as Krystal Eve Browitt, a 21-year-old Australian woman.

According to AFP news agency, the young woman was on holiday in New Zealand with other family members.

Six bodies retrieved

A military squad on Friday recovered six bodies from the volcanic island.

The team, wearing protective clothing and using breathing apparatus, were taken to White Island by helicopter.

After the bodies were retrieved, they were airlifted to a ship where scientists and other police and military personnel monitored the risky operation.

NEWS || Alongside New Zealand Police our team recovered the bodies of six people who tragically died in the eruption on...

Publiée par NZ Defence Force sur Jeudi 12 décembre 2019

"Today was all about returning them to their loved ones," New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a news conference.

"We know that reunion won't ease that sense of loss, of suffering, because I don't think anything can but we felt an enormous sense of duty as New Zealanders to bring their loved ones home."

New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said they were deploying a dive team to search the remaining two bodies in surrounding waters.

"It's not over yet," Bush told reporters, adding that the recovery operation was "not without risk". He praised the courage of the rescue team.

Scientists have warned that gases on the island are so toxic and corrosive that a single inhalation could be fatal.

The volcano, a popular tourist destination for day-trippers, erupted on Monday, spewing ash, steam and gases over the island.

Among the 47 people on the island at the time were Australian, US, German, Chinese, British and Malaysian tourists.

The recovery operation had been delayed because of the possibility of a further eruption.

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