Jacinda Ardern delivers powerful message in Parliament to Whakaari/White Island victims: 'You are forever linked to our nation'

"You are forever linked to our nation," the Prime Minister told Parliament today as she spoke of the victims of the Whakaari/White Island eruption.

Jacinda Ardern also told the House that there would be "bigger questions in relation to this event".

"These questions must be asked and must be answered."

White Island/Whakaari erupted at 2.11pm yesterday. Five people have been confirmed dead and eight people are still missing and presumed dead, of the 47 people in total who were on the island at the time of eruption. 

The Prime Minister spoke of a collection of rocks that sit off Whakaari, "for some of the Mātaatua tribes it is where those who have passed on begin their journey to the afterlife. 

Surveillance photos locate six bodies on White Island, with two people still unaccounted for

"I say to those who have lost and grieve, you are forever linked to our nation and we will hold you close."

Ms Ardern spoke of St John first responders who boarded a coastguard vessel making their way out to sea to one of the rescue vessels to give first aid support.

“There were two of them, amongst many, many injured at that time until they reached other first responders on shore.

"I heard the story of those helicopter operators who when landing on White Island were greeted with devastation but did all they could to take off every survivor from that island and bring them immediately back to the mainland.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks with a paramedic who worked through the White Island volcano eruption. Source: 1 NEWS

"I have no doubt they saved lives at great risk to their own personal safety."

“There is no limit to New Zealand’s capacity to mobilise, to respond, to care and embrace those impacted by tragedy. We are a nation full of ordinary people who do extraordinary things."

Ms Ardern said questions needed to be asked, with police and Worksafe likely to release a statement today that would outline the investigation process. 

The Prime Minister had just returned from Whakatāne where she met victims and first responders this morning. 

Earlier, Ms Ardern told media one of the first responders told her everyone who was alive after the eruption had been taken off the island.

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One of the first responders told Ms Ardern everyone who was alive after the eruption has been taken off the island. Source: 1 NEWS

She said the rescue of the eight missing people would be a  "tragic" recovery mission

The people involved in the disaster were from New Zealand, Australia, US, UK, China and Malaysia.