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New Zealand: recovery operations underway following volcanic eruption

New Zealand has deployed a team to recover bodies from White Island. This comes after a devastating volcanic eruption shook the nation last week.

It is believed that up to 16 people have died on the island during the eruption. Plans for the mission had been finalized on Thursday according to New Zealand police. Retrieval operations could not be done immediately following the eruption as dangerous conditions became a hindrance to the recovery process.

According to the international geological agency GeoNet, risks still remain. The agency foresees a 50 to 60 percent chance that another eruption on the island might occur in the next 24 hours. Toxic steam and fatal mud bursts continue in the area.

In the latest update as of this writing, police deputy commissioner John Tims told The Guardian:

“The operation to recover the bodies from Whakaari / White Island is progressing and the team is well advanced with the recovery of the bodies. We expect the recovery operation to continue for another couple of hours. Conditions on the island remain favourable.”

Operations are expected to wrap up within the day.

New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern provided updates about the mission to ABC Radio National in Australia.

“We are in the middle of the operation and have had defence force personnel [on the island] since 7.20am [NZ time]. The role is to get those who have perished on the island and have them returned…. we just want to bring everyone home.”

Volcanologists continue to monitor conditions on White Island which, for the most part, has reportedly been favorable.