New Zealand police finalizing plan to retrieve bodies after volcanic eruption

Access to the comments Comments
By Phil Helsel  with NBC News World News
Image: White Island mourners
Family of volcano victim Hayden Marshall-Inman, walks from a meeting with Police Minister Stuart Nash and officials in Whakatane, New Zealand, on Dec. 12, 2019.   -   Copyright  Mark Baker

New Zealand police said Thursday they are finalizing plans to recover bodies from an island where a volcanic eruption is feared to have killed up to 16 people.Police saidthey will begin recovering bodies Friday morning from White Island, some 30 miles off the coast of North Island. Previously, conditions had made made it too dangerous to start the recovery process, officials said.The missing or dead are believed to be among 47 people, nine from the United States, who were visiting the island when Monday's eruption spewed a hail of burning ash, steam and gas.Police said in a statement Thursday morning that two people who were hospitalized had died, bringing the official death toll to eight. Eight more are missing and presumed dead, Reuters reported.Many survivors suffered severe burns, prompting New Zealand officials to order skin from the U.S. to help treat their wounds.

Family of volcano victim Hayden Marshall-Inman, walks from a meeting with Police Minister Stuart Nash and officials in Whakatane, New Zealand, on Dec. 12, 2019.
Family of volcano victim Hayden Marshall-Inman, walks from a meeting with Police Minister Stuart Nash and officials in Whakatane, New Zealand, on Dec. 12, 2019.Mark Baker

Police have said they believe eight bodies remain on the volcano.Two young brothers, Matthew Hollander and Berend "Ben" Hollander, died in the hospital, said officials at Knox Grammar School in Australia, where the boys were students. Their parents are unaccounted for, the school said.New Zealand officials estimated Thursday there was a 50 to 60 percent chance of another eruption in the next 24 hours.Twenty-one patients were in burn units across the country, but six patients from Australia were expected to be flown to their home country in the next 24 hours, officials said.