December 14, 2019 19:20:27
Australian woman Krystal Eve Browitt, 21, is the first victim of the White Island volcanic eruption formally named by New Zealand Police.
- A body was spotted in the ocean near White Island, prompting the water search
- All 13 Australian survivors of the eruption have been brought home for treatment
- In Auckland, authorities are carrying out autopsies on the remains of the six bodies recovered on Friday
Ms Browitt, from Melbourne, was on the island with her family members — father Paul and sister Stephanie — who are both seriously injured.
The 21-year-old was a former student at Kolbe Catholic College, with principal Nick Scully describing her earlier in the week as a “beautiful soul”.
Mr Scully said he was praying Krystal’s sister Stephanie would make a full recovery.
On Saturday evening, New Zealand police confirmed a person being treated at Waikato Hospital had died, bringing the death toll to 15.
Meanwhile, police divers have faced challenging conditions in the search of the waters near White Island to retrieve the bodies of the two remaining victims of the New Zealand volcanic eruption.
Divers facing contaminated water
Divers could not retrieve the remains of the final two people in Friday’s operation but were able to spot at least one body in the waters not far from the shore.
“A team of nine from the Police National Dive Squad resumed their search at 7:00am (local time) today for a body seen in the water following Monday’s volcanic eruption,” Deputy Commissioner John Tims said.
“The water around the island is contaminated, requiring the divers to take extra precautions to ensure their safety, including using specialist protective equipment.
“Divers have reported seeing a number of dead fish and eels washed ashore and floating in the water.”
Deputy Commissioner Tims said conditions were far from optimal, with water visibility at less than 2 metres.
“Each time they surface, the divers are decontaminated using fresh water,” he said.
Navy divers will join the police dive squad this afternoon.
An earlier statement ruled out returning to the island for a land-based search on Saturday.
All Australian survivors transported home
All 13 of the Australians who survived the eruption have been transferred home for treatment from New Zealand hospitals.
In a statement, New South Wales Health confirmed 10 NSW residents were being treated across Royal North Shore and Concord hospitals.
Four patients at Concord Hospital are in a critical condition, while three patients at Royal North Shore are in a critical condition, and two are in a stable condition.
The condition of the 10th person was not revealed.
Of the 15 injured still being treated in New Zealand, 11 are in very critical condition, requiring surgery every second day.
Coroner working to formally identify six dead
Meanwhile, New Zealand’s chief coroner’s office said it was working to conduct post-mortems and formally identify the bodies of the six dead recovered on Friday.
Coronial Services says it is using the Disaster Victim Identification Process on the six bodies.
The coroner will use biological information such as DNA samples and fingerprints, as well as any recorded personal effects to make positive identifications.
The process can normally take days and the coroner’s office said it was aware families wanted information as soon as possible.
Tremor activity drops overnight
On Saturday morning, GeoNet advised the level of volcanic activity at White Island had “declined significantly” overnight.
Duty volcanologist Brad Scott said he had observed a significant drop in volcanic tremor as well as a “glow” visible at night-time from the active vent area.
“Overnight, web camera images recorded a glow from the vent area, confirming high heat flow,” he said.
He said there was a 35-50 per cent chance of an eruption in the next 24 hours, a decrease on Friday’s level.
The volcano, a popular tourist destination for daytrippers, erupted on Monday, spewing ash, steam and gases over the island.
Among the 47 people on the island at the time were Australian, US, German, Chinese, British and Malaysian tourists.
There has also been criticism that tourists were allowed on the island at all, given the risks of being on an active volcano.
Real Life. Real News. Real Voices
Help us tell more of the stories that matterBecome a founding member
December 14, 2019 11:13:51
Subscribe to the newsletter news
We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe