Whakatāne locals have performed a haka and are singing to keep spirits high as the New Zealand Defence Force launches its mission to retrieve bodies from the White Island volcano.
Even before first light today, vessels from the navy and White Island Tours headed out to sea to support the high-risk operation.
GNS Science has predicted a 50-60 per cent chance of a further eruption in the next 24 hours, but families of those believed to be trapped on Whakaari have urged police to return the bodies of their loved ones to their custody.
Members of Ngāti Awa organised the early-morning waiata for those involved in Whakaari/White Island body recovery operation, and boats and helicopters head out to the scene on Monday's disaster.
There are believed to be the bodies of eight victims on the island.
Eight others have died.