SYDNEY - Search teams have failed to find the bodies of the last victims of a volcanic eruption in New Zealand. The official number of dead from Monday’s disaster stands at 15.
Police and navy divers have failed to find a body that was seen in the sea off New Zealand’s White Island the day after the eruption. The authorities said they faced "unique and challenging conditions." The water has been contaminated by the volcano, and divers had to wear special protective equipment.
Another victim is thought to be near the crater. On Sunday, recovery teams again landed on the island, but neither of the two missing bodies have been found. It is unclear when another recovery attempt will be made.
Six bodies were retrieved Friday by soldiers, who were flown in despite the risk of another eruption. The remains have been taken to Auckland for postmortem examinations.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says retrieving the bodies of all of the victims is a priority.
"We know that reunification will not ease that sense of loss or grief, because I do not think anything can. But we felt an enormous duty of care as New Zealanders to make sure that we brought their family members back," Arden said.
Police have officially named the first victim of the volcanic eruption.
Krystal Eve Browitt, a 21-year old Australian, was on holiday with her family. Identifying the other victims could take some time.
Prime Minister Ardern said the country would observe a minute of silence at 2:11 p.m. Monday, exactly a week after what she described as an "extraordinary tragedy."
About 20 survivors with severe burns are in intensive care in New Zealand and Australia.
New Zealand lies on the Pacific Ring of Fire, a region known for its extreme volcanic activity and earthquakes.