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UPDATE: Whakaari / White Island volcanic eruption

Deputy Commissioner John Tims:

Can I first acknowledge the friends and families of all those impacted by the tragic events on Monday 9 December with the eruption at Whakaari / White Island.

Police are absolutely committed to recovering bodies from the island.

We have sought advice on the current environment, the requirements of those going to the island, and the care and transportation of the bodies when they are recovered.

The environment on the island has changed, with increased volcanic activity since early this morning.

We are standing by and ready to go as soon as we can be confident that the risks on the island are manageable.

At this stage, GNS advises that the chance of a further eruption is significant and it is too dangerous to return to the island.

Since Monday we have been working tirelessly with our partners at Defence and Fire and Emergency New Zealand to establish a plan for the recovery of the bodies still on the island.

We are confident in our ability to deliver the rescue operation once we can be sure we can manage the very real dangers that anyone going onto the island would face.

Those deploying to the island will likely encounter serious physical and chemical hazards, for which we must be prepared.

As part of the recovery operation we have disaster victim identification specialists in Whakatane ready to be deployed.

Disaster victim identification is a skilled role that must be undertaken with the utmost care and consideration.

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We understand and appreciate the desire of families and the public for the bodies to be retrieved as soon as possible.

Today were are able to release the names of nine people who have been identified and confirmed as missing.

Those names will be on our website shortly.

An Australian Defence aircraft is heading to New Zealand now to uplift a number of the injured Australians.

A drone conducted four fly-overs of the island earlier today and analysis of that footage is ongoing.

Police Family Liaison Officers, supported by colleagues from the Australian Federal Police, are providing support of all next-of-kin.

Five Australian Police Officers arrived in New Zealand today in support of the operation.

They have specialist skills in family liaison and disaster victim identification.

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