Death toll after New Zealand’s volcano eruption rises to 15

epa08068369 A handout photo made available by Royal New Zealand Navy shows police and Navy personnel during a recovery operation for the victims of a volcanic eruption on White Island, New Zealand, 13 December 2019. According to recent media reports, a total of 15 people have died and more than 24 were injured in an eruption on White Island on 09 December. Rescue and recovery efforts have been hampered by hazardous conditions on the island, and the danger of another eruption. EPA-EFE/ROYAL NEW ZEALAND NAVY / HANDOUT HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES

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New Zealand divers searched contaminated waters near the volcanic White Island for two remaining bodies on Saturday, as the death toll from an eruption rose to 15 people, the police said.

The remains of six people were successfully recovered on Friday after a military team in gas masks and hazmat suits landed on the uninhabited island and removed the bodies in a high-risk operation.

Police said they could not retrieve the remains of two more people, but spotted at least one body in the waters not too far from the island shoreline.

Nine police dive squad members resumed their search at 7.00 a.m. local time (1800 GMT Friday) and the operation would be boosted by a navy dive team later in the day.

The police said in an earlier statement they will not return to the island for a land-based search on Saturday, but will return in the future.

The volcano, a popular tourist destination for day-trippers, erupted on Monday, spewing ash, steam and gases over the island. Among the 47 people on the island at the time were Australian, U.S., German, Chinese, British and Malaysian tourists.

The death toll rose to 15 on Saturday as one more person died in the hospital. The toll may rise further as more than two dozen people are still hospitalised across New Zealand and Australia, most with severe burn injuries.

Reuters / EPA

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