WELLINGTON: Divers searched seas around New Zealand’s volatile White Island on Saturday for two people still missing five days after the volcano erupted, while police formally named the first victim.
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 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, at least 16 were killed while 28 remain in hospitals in New Zealand and Australia with 21 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 cent chance of an eruption occurring,” Natalia Deligne, a volcanic hazard and risk modeller, said.
The remains of six people were retrieved 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.
The coroner in New Zealand is working through a “robust” process to identify the bodies, authorities said.
Published in Dawn, December 15th, 2019