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Community 'still raw' six months on from deadly White Island eruption - Whakatāne mayor

Today marks six months since Whakaari/White Island erupted killing 21 people, and Whakatāne's mayor says the tragedy is still raw.

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On December 9, 2019, 21 people died when the volcano erupted. Source: Breakfast

The volcano, one of New Zealand's biggest tourism attractions, erupted on December 9, 2019 - killing 21 people and injuring many more.

Whakatāne Mayor Judy Turner told TVNZ1's Breakfast this morning, "I think it would be true to say that beneath the surface we're still a little bit raw.

"I know for myself I found it really difficult watching the documentary on TV a couple of weeks ago and had to change channels. I wasn't up for it and I talked to a number of other people who felt exactly the same.

"I was at home and at that point I was being a mum and a grandmother so it sort of hit me a little bit more severely."

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Hayden died in the disaster six months ago, but his Brother Mark says grief of his loss has brought his family closer. Source: Breakfast

However, amidst the grief, Ms Turner said she had become close friends with the mother of Hayden Marshall-Inman, who died on the island and whose body is yet to be recovered.

"I just know the courage that she and the rest of her family have had to take during this time so very mindful of real people dealing with it in a very real and raw level.

"I guess every crisis is different to the ones before and I think that the difficulty for people here is we're used to getting in behind the problem and doing things practically to help when there was, actually apart from supporting local families, there wasn't a lot we could do.

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Seventeen people were killed in the eruption while two others are still missing. Source: 1 NEWS

"There was kind of a sense of powerlessness for a while that we were subject to this horrendous thing."

At the time of the eruption, Ms Turner said she was confident the region would recover.

Asked this morning if she still stands by her comments given the impact of Covid-19, Ms Turner said "I'm very confident, but because unfortunately we've had probably more than our fair share of disasters and we have become very resilient people.

"It has been a difficult time to have a kind of a double whammy hit us but we're on our way up."

Ms Turner said an iwi-led 12 month memorial will mark the Whakaari/White Island tragedy, but as for now she wanted to give those affected privacy.

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Allesandro Kauffman and his partner had just returned to their boat when the disaster happened. Source: 1 NEWS