Mission to White Island planned for today to retrieve bodies

Police in New Zealand are planning a mission to White Island today, December 13th, to retrieve the bodies of the people killed in this week’s eruption. The known death toll yesterday rose to eight, with two people dying in hospital. The assumed death toll is 16, with eight victims buried under ash and debris from Monday’s volcanic eruption.

Royal Caribbean cruise lines has said that passengers from its ship Ovation of the Seas (IMO 9697753) were on the island at the time. It said it grieved “this tragic loss” and would continue to offer support and services to affected families.

The Ovation of the Seas docked in Wellington on Thursday.

More than 20 people are in hospital, many with severe burns, while seven others have been transferred to burns units in Australia.

Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement said that the rescue mission was risky and that a team would deploy at first light on Friday.

There were 47 people on the island, also known as Whakaari, at the time of the eruption. Twenty-four of those were from Australia, nine from the US, five from New Zealand, four from Germany, two each from China and the UK, and one from Malaysia.

Dr Heike Hundemer, clinical leader at Whakatane hospital, said at a media conference on Wednesday that “what we faced on Monday was beyond comprehension. I’ve worked in major centres in Germany as well as in New Zealand. I’ve never seen this number of critically injured patients coming into an emergency department in a short space of time”.

2016-built, Bahamas-flagged, 168,666 gt Ovation of the Seas is owned by Ovation of the Seas Inc care of RCL, Miami, Florida, USA. ISM manager is RCL Cruises Ltd of Weybridge, UK. It is entered with UK Club (Area Group Americas G7) on behalf of RCL Cruises Ltd.