Death toll from New Zealand volcano rises to 20 after police suspend search for remaining two bodies
- New Zealand police on January 13 confirmed that another person has died from injuries sustained after one of New Zealand's most active volcanoes erupted on December 9, 2019.
- The death toll from the incident has risen to 20, including the two bodies that have not yet been found.
- New Zealand police on December 24, 2019 called off the search for two missing people, who are presumed dead.
- Dozens more remain in the hospital with serious burns and injuries.
- New Zealand's geological monitoring agency, GeoNet, said the eruption began at around 2:11 p.m. local time on Whakaari, also known as White Island, a popular tourist spot which features an active volcano.
- Police released the nationalities of 47 people who were on the island when the volcano erupted, which included 24 Australians, two Chinese nationals, four Germans, one Malaysian national, five New Zealanders, two people from the UK, and nine people from the US.
- Police say it is too early to confirm whether there will also be a criminal investigation on the circumstances which allowed large numbers of people to visit the volcano before its eruption.
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New Zealand police on January 13 confirmed that another person has died from injuries sustained after one of New Zealand's most active volcanoes erupted on December 9, 2019, raising the death toll from the incident to 20, including two bodies that authorities were unable to recover.
Police called off the search for the two missing people on December 24, 2019. They are presumed dead.
Authorities have been able to recover the bodies of six people.
Deputy Commissioner John Tims said in a statement on January 13 that 16 people died in New Zealand and two died after being evacuated to Australia.
Police conducted an extensive aerial search in the weeks following the eruption.
"Sadly no further items of significance have been located," they said in a statement.
"Police remain ready to respond if new information comes to light."
Divers had planned to continue their mission to rescue the remaining two bodies, though police said the retrieval efforts were "difficult."
"While it is most likely that the two remaining bodies are in the water, we need to be sure," police said.
Dozens of people remain in hospitals in Australia and New Zealand with severe burns, and police previously said that identifying the victims would be a "complex matter."Around 186,000 square inches of skin were brought in to treat the burn victims.
Police say they are still working to confirm the identities of those who have died and who are injured. Police on Tuesday released the nationalities of 47 people who were on the island when the volcano erupted, which included 24 Australians, two Chinese nationals, four Germans, one Malaysian national, five New Zealanders, two people from the UK, and nine people from the US.
The eruption occurred at Whakaari, also known as White Island, a popular tourist spot located about 50 kilometers from the east coast of country's North Island.
According to New Zealand's geological monitoring agency, GeoNet, the unexpected eruption began at around 2:11 p.m. local time on December 9, 2019, and sent ash plumes 12,000 feet (about 3,000 metres) into the air.
Police previously said that "no signs of life have been seen at any point" by helicopters and rescue aircrafts flying over the Island.
GNS Science, New Zealand's geoscience agency previously said that the volcano was producing "vigorous steaming and localised mud jetting in several of the craters created by the eruption," which they interpreted as signs of continued high gas pressures within the volcano.
Police released the identities of some of the victims who died in The disaster: Matthew Hollander, 13, and his brother Berend Hollander, 16, both US citizens with Australian permanent residency,
Police announced that Martin Hollander, 48, the father of the two boys, was also killed in the incident.
Several other victims were also named: Jessica Richards, 20, Jason Griffiths, 33, Kristine Langford, 45, and Karla Mathews, 32. They are all Australian citizens.
Police added that it was too early to confirm whether there will also be a criminal investigation on the circumstances which allowed large numbers of people to visit the volcano before its eruption.
Prime Minister Jacinda Arden expressed her condolences for those affected at a press conference shortly after the incident.
"This is a volcano that has been visited for the better part of 30 years. However, we also hear, and absolutely agree, that there are questions that are being asked that must be answered and they will be.
According to GNS Science, White Island has been New Zealand's most continuously active volcano for the last 40 years.
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