New Zealand police suspend search for two missing in deadly eruption

Smoke from the volcanic eruption of Whakaari, also known as White Island, is pictured from a boat, New Zealand December 9, 2019 in this picture grab obtained from a social media video. — Instagram pic via Reuters
Smoke from the volcanic eruption of Whakaari, also known as White Island, is pictured from a boat, New Zealand December 9, 2019 in this picture grab obtained from a social media video. — Instagram pic via Reuters

WELLINGTON, Dec 24 — New Zealand police said today they were ending the search for the bodies of two people still missing following the deadly eruption of a volcano earlier this month.

“The search for the two missing victims of the Whakaari/ White Island eruption has been suspended,” Bay of Plenty District Commander, Superintendent Andy McGregor said in a statement.

“The families of the two missing people have been informed of this decision. Police remain ready to respond if new information comes to light,” he added.

Those still missing, presumed dead, are Winona Langford, a 17-year-old Australian tourist, and Hayden Marshall-Inman, a 40-year-old New Zealand tour guide. Their bodies are thought to have been swept into the ocean around the uninhabited volcanic island.

Police said yesterday one of those injured during the eruption had died in an Auckland hospital on the weekend, bringing the official death toll to 17.

The majority of the victims the powerful eruption of White Island, also known by its Māori name of Whakaari, were Australian citizens or permanent residents.

There has been criticism that tourists were allowed on the island, a popular destination for day-trippers, given the risks of an active volcano. That has led to speculation the tragedy could lead to major changes for New Zealand's thrillseeker tourism industry.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said official inquiries by coroners and work safety regulators into the eruption could take up to a year, and will carry potential criminal penalties of up to five years in jail. — Reuters

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