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

Eight people are missing, while five others have been confirmed dead, after White Island/Whakaari erupted off the Bay of Plenty yesterday.

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Five have died and eight remain missing, but police say it’ll now be a “recovery operation”. Source: 1 NEWS

Key points:

  • White Island/Whakaari erupted at 2.11pm yesterday.

  • Five people are confirmed dead. Eight people are missing and presumed dead.

  • 47 people were on the island when it erupted. 31 are still in hospital and three have been discharged.

  • Rescue services have been unable to reach the island so far, due to risks of further eruptions.

7.45pm: This concludes 1 NEWS' live updates of the White Island eruption disaster for today.

Keep checking the website for any major updates throughout the evening and read the afternoon and evening updates below.

6.55pm: After previously announcing a criminal investigation into the deadly White Island eruption, police have now sent out a correction, stating, "it is too early to confirm whether there will also be a criminal investigation.

"The police investigation on behalf of the Coroner will be carried out in parallel with a WorkSafe New Zealand investigation."

6.45pm: GeoNet has put together information about White Island which can be viewed by following this link.

6.20pm: A cruise ship director has thanked locals for their 'extraordinary' response after a karakia for Ovation of the Seas passengers killed in the White Island eruption.

Ovation of the Seas was due to leave port this evening but will now remain as police carry out their investigation of the disaster.

5.50pm: GNS Science Senior Volcanologist Graham Leonard has given an update on the White Island volcano.

"No further eruptions have occurred since 2.11pm yesterday, seismic activity has dropped to a low level we are still seeing localised steam and mud jetting from vent area.

"We estimate a 50 per cent chance of small eruption in the next 24 hours."

5.40pm: The list of people's nationalities caught up in the White Island eruption was also confirmed at the recent press conference.

They are: 24 Australians, 9 Americans, 5 New Zealanders, 4 Germans, 2 Chinese, 2 United Kingdom and 1 Malaysian.

5.20pm: Ministry of Health spokesperson Pete Watson says health professionals are "doing all we can, but it's possible that not all of the patients will survive."

He says the number of people in critical condition is in the 20's, but that figure is changing constantly.

5.10pm: Police Deputy Commissioner John Tims says emergency services have an idea of where the bodies are on the island from surveillance photos and the bodies are covered in ash.

Six bodies have been marked in photos, of the eight people unaccounted for.

When asked if anyone may still be alive on the island he said: "We can never say 100 per cent but I would strongly suggest there is no one who has survived on the island."

Drones will be sent over the island to capture gas which will be used to deduce if it's safe enough to begin a recovery operation.

Earlier, weather conditions were too windy to send drones over the island, another attempt will hopefully be made today.

5.00pm: Ministry of Health spokesperson Pete Watson has given an update on patients from the eruption in hospitals around the country.

"Of the 31 injured 25 are now in NZ's four regional burn units," he said.

"All of the burns units are full to capacity, with 27 of the 31 injured receiving greater than 30 percent total body area burns.

"Many have inhalation burns requiring breathing support.

The patients range in age from 13 to 72 and most are visitors to NZ.

4.50pm: Police Deputy Commissioner John Tims says a criminal investigation will be launched into the deaths and injuries which occurred in the White Island eruption.

He says the investigation will run parallel with WorkSafe's own investigation into the incident.

(UPDATE:) This has since been corrected by police, who say it is too early to announce a criminal investigation.

4.40pm: A press conference has begun at the police headquarters in Wellington.

Click here to watch it live.

4.15pm: The whānau of a 23-year-old White Island tour guide who was working yesterday when it erupted are “scared” they’ve lost their family’s “entertainer”.

Tipene Maangi is currently listed as missing after the tragedy.

Missing White Island tour guide Tipene Maangi's whānau 'want to fall apart'

4.00pm: A karakia has just begun next to the Ovation of the Seas cruise ship at the Port of Tauranga.

Many of the tourists caught up in the eruption were from the ship.

3.50pm: The Australian Associated Press has just released a list of Australians still missing after the eruption.

Australia (no state listed): Susan Maree Cole, no age given, Martin Hollander, 48

* NSW:

Anthony Langford, 51, partner Kristine, son Jesse, 19, and daughter Winona Langford, 17, from North Sydney
Jane Murray, 56, Sydney
Marion London, 56, Sydney
Jason David Griffiths, 33, Coffs Harbour
Karla Michelle Mathews, 32, Coffs Harbour
Richard Aaron Elzer 32, Coffs Harbour

* SA:

Gavin Brian Dallow, 53, Adelaide
Lisa, 48, Adelaide. No surname given.
Zoe Hosking, 15, Adelaide

* VIC:

Stuart Raymond Trott, 45, Melbourne
Krystal Browitt, 21, Melbourne

* QLD:

Robert Rogers, 78, Herberton
Julie Richards, 47, and her daughter Jessica Richards, 20

*Some may still be in hospital, some may be unaccounted for and some may be safe but not yet able to contact the Red Cross or others to notify their status

NZ Red Cross website: redcross.org.nz

3:40pm: Footage of yesterday's deadly eruption - taken from a tour boat which departed just 30 seconds before it happened - has emerged.

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Remarkably, instead of fleeing, the boat returned to the island to aid the rescue effort. Source: Supplied

3.35pm: There will be a "traumatic road" ahead for White Island victims, volcano eruption survivor William Pike says.

The adventurer lost his leg on Mt Ruapehu in 2007.

'Traumatic' road ahead for White Island victims, volcano eruption survivor William Pike says

3.10pm: The latest webcam image of White Island taken from Whakatāne shows a much calmer scene than this time yesterday.

Webcam image of White Island at 3.00pm, December 10, 2019. Source: GeoNet

3.05pm: Click the link below to watch Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's address to Parliament this afternoon.

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

2.50pm: Comments from Emeritus Professor Ray Cas from the School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment, Monash University are grabbing headlines across the Tasman today.

“White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years. Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter,” he said on the eruption.

Also in Australia, a Channel Nine reporter has tweeted that a Year 9 female student from Adelaide and her family are among those missing after the volcano erupted yesterday.

2.40pm: A Waikato DHB spokesperson has told 1 NEWS that eight patients from the eruption are still in critical condition.

There are four people in critical condition at Auckland's Middlemore Hospital.

2.25pm: Ms Ardern closed her statement in Parliament by saying: "I say to those who have lost and grieve, you are forever linked to our national and we will hold you close."

National's Deputy Leader Paula Bennett has also addressed the House, opening her statement by thanking the Government for the updates and the work that has been going on.

"It is up to us to show our respect for all those who have been working at this very traumatic time.

"Now is also about the victims and family members who have been going through the worst 24 hours of their lives," Ms Bennett said.

She was speaking on behalf of Simon Bridges who is currently in Whakatāne.

2.10pm: The Prime Minister has opened Parliament's question time today with a statement on the White Island eruption.

She began by saying that "the scale of this tragedy is devastating."

Ms Ardern then acknowledged the courage of the helicopter pilots who responded to the incident immediately after the eruption.

"Our family in Australia has been heavily impacted, we feel the pull of our bond acutely at this time," she added.

"We know too there will be bigger questions in relation to this event.

"These questions must be asked and must be answered," the Prime Minister said.

1.55pm: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern met with first responders in Whakatāne this morning.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern shares a hug with one of the paramedics who worked through the White Island volcano eruption. Source: 1 NEWS

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

1.50pm: The latest updates from police calls the victim recovery process a "heartbreaking situation".

"Recovering the remaining victims and returning them to their loved ones is an absolute priority for NZ Police," they say in a statement.

"Police are working closely with experts from GNS Science to get an understanding of the current environment on Whakaari/White Island and the likelihood of any further volcanic activity, as well as any risks posed to recovery teams by gases in the atmosphere.

"This is a heartbreaking situation for all involved and we are working to provide every support possible to the families and loved ones of those killed and injured in the eruption."

1.40pm: White Island is still shooting out mud and steam from its vent, almost a day on from the eruption.

Volcanologist Dr Geoff Kilgour has issued an update and says the volcanic alert remains at level three.

"Since the eruption, seismic activity has dropped to low levels and there has been no further eruptive activity," he says.

"However, we are still observing localised steam and mud jetting from the active vent area."

There's still a risk of another smaller or similar-sized eruption within the next 24 hours - about the same likelihood as there being no eruption.

But Dr Kilgour warns there's a high level of uncertainly with the estimates.

"We also estimate the least likely scenario is a larger eruption."

1.35pm: A 5.3 magnitude earthquake has struck near Gisborne this afternoon.

GeoNet says it's not related to the eruptions on White Island.

1.06pm: A new photo reveals the remnants of a helicopter that was left behind on White Island after the eruption.

Volcanic Air confirmed to 1 NEWS the helicopter is their Eurocopter Ecureuil, which took four people and a pilot to the island yesterday.

All four were in the lower group when the volcano erupted, and were safely evacuated by a tourist boat.

The helicopter was destroyed. In the photo, it can be seen to have moved off the helipad and is covered in a thick layer of volcanic dust.

12.47pm: One of the first responders says the scene was like something from a TV show.

"When we got there, it was quite an experience - it was what I've seen in the Chernobyl mini-series," Russell 'Rusty' Clark told 1 NEWS today.

"Everything was just blanketed in ash. It was quite an overwhelming feeling - there was a helicopter on the island that had obviously been there at the time and its rotor blades were off it."

Mr Clark is an intensive care paramedic for Auckland Westpac Rescue Helicopter.

Click the link to watch the 1 NEWS interview with Russell 'Rusty' Clark.

12.26pm: US Ambassador to New Zealand Scott Brown says they can't provide any specific information about US citizens affected by the eruption.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed this morning that tourists from the US were among those impacted, but did not specify whether they were injured, or among the dead or missing.

In a statement today, Mr Brown said they're providing all possible consular assistance to those affected.

"Our sincerest condolences to the families of those lost and injured in this tragedy," he says.

"Out of consideration for those involved, as well as privacy concerns, we cannot provide any specific information on US citizens that were affected by the eruption.

"We'd like to thank the very brave helicopter pilots and crews and other first responders who raced to evacuate people during the eruption and its aftermath."

Mr Brown says they remain in "close communication" with local authorities.

12.18pm: It's a sombre mood on board the Ovation of the Seas cruise ship, docked at the Port of Tauranga.

ABC News journalist Donna Field is on the cruise with her family and told 1 NEWS she can't understand how the victims' families are feeling.

"They get that knock on the door of that cabin with that unthinkable news," she says.

"It's a really strange thing. You're on this ship with 500 other people, it's this party, holiday mode, and things just kind of subtly turn.

"I think everyone's kind of coming to terms with how someone's holiday has ended in such a tragic manner."

12.07pm: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has made her way to Whakatāne Airport.

The road has been closed to the public and a neighbour told 1 NEWS today she understands the airport is being used as a temporary morgue.

She says the area has been very quiet today compared to yesterday, when numerous helicopters were there following the eruption.

She says only two flights have left today.