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Source: New Zealand Police

The recovery of bodies from Whakaari/White Island is an absolute priority for Police.

We understand and appreciate the desire of families and the public for the bodies to be retrieved as soon as possible.

Our staff and partner agencies are committed to making this happen.

It is important to note that the environment on the island has changed since the eruption.

It is the role of GNS to provide Police with advice as to the safety of deploying onto the island.

A meeting with scientists will take place later this morning and further clarity is expected at that time.

That information will be further informed by surveillance from a drone, which was successfully launched about 8.30am today.

Police has disaster victim identification specialists standing by in Whakatane ready to be deployed.

This is a skilled role that must be undertaken with the utmost care and consideration.

Police is required to follow the international process for disaster victim identification – including the formal examination and documentation of bodies at the scene to ensure they are correctly identified and all the necessary information is gathered for subsequent investigations.

Those deploying to the island will likely encounter serious physical and chemical hazards, for which we must be prepared.

At this stage, Police is not in a position to release further information about the nationalities or identities of the victims.

There are currently 30 patients in six hospitals around New Zealand — Middlemore, Hutt Valley, Auckland City, Tauranga, Waikato and Christchurch.

Twenty five patients are critical with the remainder stable but serious.

ENDS

Issued by Police Media Centre

MIL OSI