"Focus must remain on those affected by eruption" - PM

updated By Te Ao - Māori News

Focus will remain centered on supporting those in need and locating the eight people still missing after the Whakaari-White Island eruption.

Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern says there will be a number of questions asked and answers sought by the appropriate authorities around future tourism of the active volcano.

Five people have been confirmed deceased and 31 treated for critical injuries.

Ardern says “there are a number of questions that I absolutely anticipate will be asked in that regard but I think the consensus here is that the focus has to be on those at this time who are critically injured in what has sadly become a recovery operation.”

Police say they are working closely with experts to assess the volatility of the island before making further attempts to complete another land search.

Rescue helicopters, the Police Eagle helicopter, and NZDF aircraft have undertaken a number of aerial reconnaissance flights over the island since the eruption, and further reconnaissance flights will be undertaken this morning.

Both New Zealanders and overseas tourists are involved, including 37 passengers and one crew member from the Ovation of the Seas cruise ship.

Support is being put in place for the families and loved ones of those involved.

Superintendent Bruce Bird advised media in a press conference there were no signs of life in the last air search.

“The pilot that went out to the island spent about 45 minutes in the air, and he's provided a pretty good indication that we do not believe anybody else has survived the explosion.”

Three patients have been treated and discharged from Whakatane Hospital.

Superintendent Bird said efforts were underway to get the families of those still missing to the area and there was a lot of support around them.

The Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern advised that most victims were being treated at different centers across the country.

“Those who have been injured are being treated in Wellington, Auckland, Middlemore, Tauranga, Waikato, Christchurch and Whakatane, that geographical spread is an indication of us using all the expertise available throughout burns units throughout the country to make sure people get the most appropriate critical care.”

Anyone who wishes to submit information regarding family or loved ones who might have been visiting White Island during the eruption should call Police on 105.

People overseas can call +64 9105 105, or use the online form on the Police website here.

At the request of NZ Police, New Zealand Red Cross has activated the Family Links website for people wanting to register themselves as safe or register an inquiry about a loved one.