Victims of the New Zealand volcano island eruption have been burnt so badly that they cannot speak and officials are struggling to identify them.
Thirty burns victims are being treated in hospitals across the country after the White Island volcano erupted on Monday, killing at least six.
Some of the victims suffered 90 per cent burns to their bodies, making identifying them very difficult.
Victims of the New Zealand volcano island eruption have been burnt so badly that officials are struggling to identify them. Pictured: The volcano island on Tuesday
Thirty burns victims are being treated in hospitals across the country after the White Island volcano erupted on Monday, killing at least six. Pictured: Tourists take snaps of the blast
New Zealand Police Deputy Commissioner John Tims said officers are trying to return bodies to grieving families.
‘The nature of the injuries that people have suffered is severe and means identifying them is a complex matter,’ he said.
‘We are working through the process to identify them as quickly as possible, to return those who have died to their loved ones.’
Police Minister Stuart Nash told RNZ: ‘As you can imagine there are a number in hospital who cannot communicate because they have had significant burns not only to skin but to internal organs.’
‘They cannot speak in any way, shape or form.’
Police said the sixth victim, whose name and nationality has not been released, was being treated in hospital before dying of their injuries late Tuesday.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said ‘up to three’ of the dead are Australians, while Malaysia has confirmed one of its citizens is among the dead. None of them have been identified.
The victims range in age from 13 to 72. Two are from the United Kingdom, four from Germany, 24 from Australia, five from New Zealand, two from China, one from Malaysia and nine from the United States.
Of those on the island, 38 were passengers from the Ovation of the Seas cruise ship which made its way to New Zealand from Sydney, having left on 4 December.
A total of 30 people are still being treated in hospital – some with 90 per cent burns – and three have been treated and released. Pictured: A boat saves survivors
Pete Watson, New Zealand’s chief medic, said it likely that ‘not all’ of the wounded will survive.
Investigators say recovering the eight bodies remaining on the island could take some time amid fears of another eruption and toxic gasses.
Police have announced a probe ‘into the circumstances of the deaths and injuries’ on behalf of the coroner, but backtracked on an earlier announcement of a criminal investigation.
On Wednesday, passengers made their way around Tauranga, about an hour away from Whakatane, as the 4,918-capacity vessel sat docked in the city’s harbour.
There were emotional reunions between tourists who had become friends during the trip but were yet to see each other after Monday’s explosion.
Australian tourists Avis and Ray Steer, both aged in their 70s, recalled the dramatic moment the cruise ship’s captain notified the passengers of the disaster.
Earlier in Whakatane, emotional residents gathered by the wharf where the doomed tour boat took off from
Flowers are laid at a makeshift memorial in front of the cruise ship caught up in New Zealand’s volcano tragedy
‘When he came back to the ship and told us all what had happened, you could’ve heard a pin drop,’ Ms Steer told Daily Mail Australia
‘We didn’t know anything until we got back to the boat… It’s a very sombre mood.
‘It’s terrible… On a holiday like this to have those lives snubbed out. We feel terrible for the captain. It’s awful for the folk of New Zealand.’
Ms Steer commended the ship’s captain for his handling of the crisis, adding that he had asked passengers to refrain from commenting on those who had died until their family were given the chance to grieve.
‘He’s asked us to have the people in our thoughts and prayers. I’d say he’s doing an excellent job,’ she said.
The Adelaide couple said they had not heard any warnings about travelling to White Island before the eruption but that they were not interested in going as they had planned their travel itinerary ahead of time.
Experts had earlier warned that tours of White Island, which is the tip of New Zealand’s most active cone volcano, was a ‘disaster waiting to happen’.
A health and safety investigation has also been launched.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern meeting with first responders at the Whakatane Fire Station on Tuesday