Too burnt to speak and scenes like Chernobyl: What we know about the White Island eruption.

— With AAP.

At least six people have been killed after a volcanic eruption on New Zealand’s Whakaari/White Island on Monday, while eight more remain missing, believed dead, on the island.

Recovery services are hoping to recover the bodies from the island on Wednesday.

Police confirmed on Tuesday night that a sixth person had died in Auckland’s Middlemore Hospital.

“Police can confirm a further person has died following the eruption on Whakaari/White Island, bringing the official toll to six. The person was earlier being treated at Middlemore Hospital.

“Police remain focused on supporting families at this terrible time.”

Burns units are full.

Of the 31 people in hospitals throughout New Zealand, 13 are Australians. They were among 47 people who were on Whakaari/White Island when it erupted.

Three people caught up in the eruption have been discharged from Whakatāne hospital.

All four of New Zealand’s regional burns units, in Christchurch, Hutt Valley, Waikato and Middlemore Hospital, are full to capacity.

Middlemore Hospital had faced the equivalent of its yearly workload in just one day.

“Our plastic surgeons, hospital, anaesthetists are doing their best to treat the many who have sustained injuries. Twenty-seven of the 31 have suffered greater than 71 percent body surface burns,” Ministry of Health acting advisor Dr Pete Watson said.


Dr Watson said NZ hospitals are assessing what additional resources are needed, which will likely include the transfer of several seriously injured Australians who are well enough to travel.

“It makes sense to do this because of the proximity of Australia… they’ll be treated at home, closer to their family and their usual supports,” he said.

“I want to reiterate the severity of the injuries… it is possible not all of the patients will survive. But at this stage, everybody is receiving the care they require.”

Police Minister Stuart Nash told RNZ some survivors have not yet been identified due to the nature of their injuries.

“As you can imagine there are a number in hospital who cannot communicate because they have had significant burns not only to skin but to internal organs. They cannot speak in any way, shape or form,” he said.

“We need to ensure that we do get this right because there would be nothing worse than coming out and releasing a list of names then having to retract that because we didn’t get it right.”

Six dead, many still missing.

A total of 24 Australians were on Whakaari/White Island when it erupted.

Five from New Zealand, two from the United Kingdom, four from Germany, two from China, one from Malaysia and nine from the United States were also present.

Four helicopters were able to land following the eruption, evacuating people from one group. A second group, who were much closer to the crater, were unable to be accessed.


Prime Minister Scott Morrison said yesterday he believed three of the five then-confirmed dead were Australians. A sixth person died on Tuesday night, and their background is currently unknown.

Morrison thanked rescue and medical workers for their efforts and asked the public not to speculate about those missing.

“This is a terrible tragedy, a time of great innocence and joy interrupted by the horror of that eruption, and I would ask that we refrain from any speculation about individuals at this time so we can ensure that we can contact and deal with families to ease what will be a highly anxious and highly upsetting time for them,” he said.

New Zealand police do not expect to find any more survivors of the volcanic eruption on Whakaari/White Island.

NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern confirmed on TVNZ Breakfast on Tuesday efforts by emergency services were based on recovering bodies.

Although no victims have been officially named, it’s been reported by Stuff that one of the lives lost was Hayden Marshall-Inman, a tour guide for White Island Tours. Marshall-Inman’s brother confirmed the news on Facebook.

Hayden Marshall-Inman
Tour guide Hayden Marshall-Inman is the first named victim. Image: Facebook.

"Friends and family, very sad news this evening. My bro Hayden Marshall-Inman has passed away doing the one thing he loved," Mark Inman wrote.

Tipene Maangi, 23, is the second White Island Tours staff feared dead after Monday's eruption, but his family are opting to "stay strong".

On Tuesday, his aunties told 1 NEWS they were scared for their nephew, who was the "the entertainer" and a "very confident and outspoken young man".

"We are scared, we are emotional, some of us do want to fall apart, but it's not really an option we've got to stay strong," they said.


Adelaide woman Lisa Dallow, who had been feared dead, was found alive in Hamilton Hospital, where she is being treated for severe burns to 57 per cent of her body.

Her husband Gavin Dallow and her 15-year-old daughter Zoe Hosking were confirmed dead on Wednesday afternoon.

In a statement, the family said: "The Dallow family is saddened to confirm the body of Gavin Dallow has been found and identified by New Zealand Police."

"New Zealand Police have also advised the family that Zoe Hosking is presumed dead, with her body on White Island. Recovery may not be possible for at least a couple of days due to the dangerous conditions."

The family were on a two-week cruise and had taken a day trip to the volcano.

gavin and lisa dallow whakaari white island
Gavin and Lisa Dallow on their wedding day in 2017. Image: Facebook/Rotary Adelaide.

Brisbane mother and daughter Julie Richards, 47, and Jessica Richards, 20, were the first confirmed Australian victims from the eruption. They left for New Zealand last Monday and were due home this weekend.

On Wednesday morning, it was reported that the mother and daughter had been found deceased.

Jessica, just 20 years old, was a promising AFL player who was studying veterinary science at the University of Queensland.

According to family and friends, the pair were incredibly adventurous and loved cruising.

Julie Richards and Jessica Richards
Image: Facebook.

"It is just devastating news," family friend John Mickel told media in Brisbane.

"You live in hope it's not going to be your loved one's name that comes up," he added.

"But the hope was snuffed out this morning with the message from New Zealand police."


North Sydney couple Anthony Langford and Kristine Langford, as well as their two children, Jesse 19, and Winona 17, were listed as missing on Monday afternoon.

langford family whakaari/white island eruption
Image: Seven News.

"All we know is that they went on a cruise on White Island, there was an explosion and they're missing," Anthony Langford's brother told Seven News.

"We don't know anything at all. I hope that anyone who knows anything, who sees my brother or his wife or his kids, can notify the media and they can notify us."

On Wednesday morning, Jesse was found alive in a New Zealand hospital. His father, mother, and sister remain unaccounted for.

Coffs Harbour couple Karla Mathews and Richard Elzer and their friend Jason Griffiths travelled to the island together.

Karla Mathews, Richard Elzer
Karla Mathews and Richard Elzer. Image: Facebook.

Mathews and Elzer are believed to still be missing, while Griffiths, 33, is understood to be in hospital with severe burns.

'Like Chernobyl'.

A paramedic who flew onto Whakaari/White Island following the eruption described the island as being like a scene from the Chernobyl TV series.

"When we got there, it was quite an experience, it was like the Chernobyl mini series," Russell Clark told TVNZ.

"Everything was just blanketed in ash. It was quite an overwhelming feeling. "There was a helicopter in the island which had obviously been there at the time, both it's rotor blades were off it.

"It's quite a shocking experience I suppose, but we have to try and put that to the side and get on with what we are doing.


Brazilian tourist Allessandro Kauffmann was among those to make it away safely, documenting his experience on Instagram.

"Some people have extensive burns on their bodies. Two tours on the volcano. Ours was the first. The other right after. We left the island and wasn't even five minutes before it erupted. This other tour that arrived after couldn't leave in time," Kauffmann shared on social media, according to

"Some people have serious burns. We had to stay to help those people who were on the island. The boat from this other tour was covered in ash from the volcano. Very tense talking about this. We just have to hope that all is as well as can be."


Appearing on The Project in New Zealand, Kauffmann and his partner Aline Moura reflected on their experience.

"The captain just turned the boat around. At that moment we didn’t understand what was happening, we didn’t understand why we were going back to the island because our first reaction was… run away," Moura explained.

"Some people were feeling too cold... I think it’s one reaction when someone gets burned, and everyone just takes all of their jackets, all of their tops... when we didn't have more clothes we just tried to hug those ones that we could hug, that we could touch."

The pair said the injured people they saw were "so brave" and "so strong".

"They were incredible. We just want to give our love, our prayers... We hope everyone is going to be okay."

The recovery.

According to Stuff, there has been a flurry of activity at Whakatāne airport on Wednesday morning, after NZ PM Jacinda Ardern said recovery teams were hoping to access Whakaari/White Island on Wednesday.

In a statement on Tuesday, police said they were working with Defence and Fire and Emergency NZ to determine conditions on the island and "inform the next steps we are able to take".


"Windy conditions this afternoon have meant drones have been unable to be deployed yet, but they will be as soon as conditions allow," police said.

"We are continuing to take advice from scientific experts including from GNS Science. We understand people’s desire to recover their loved ones and we are working around the clock to get onto the island so we can recover them as soon as possible."

No criminal investigation.

New Zealand police are investigating the deaths on behalf of the Coroner, but they will not be opening a criminal investigation into the circumstances around the eruption at this time.

WorkSafe New Zealand has opened a health and safety investigation into the harm and loss of life caused by the eruption.

Another eruption is possible.

Experts at GNS, New Zealand's leading provider of Earth, geoscience and isotope research, said there was "periodic steam and gas driven jetting from the active vent area" on Whakaari/White Island and there was a chance of another eruption.

The view of Whakaari/White Island on Tuesday morning. Eight people remain unaccounted for. Image: Getty.

"Over the next 24 hours we still estimate an equal likelihood of either no eruption or a smaller/similar sized eruption that would impact the main crater floor, based on our observations and measurements," duty vulcanologist Geoff Kilgour said.

"There is a high level of uncertainty associated with this estimate and we are working to reduce that uncertainty.

"We also estimate the least likely scenario is a larger eruption. There is an extremely low likelihood of any ash impact to the mainland, but people may smell gas, depending on the prevailing wind direction."

Ovation of the Seas leaves.

The Ovation of the Seas cruise ship departed Tauranga about 7am on Wednesday, waved off by a sombre crowd.

The ship will sail to Wellington today, before visiting Picton and returning to Sydney.

whakaari/white island eruption
Locals came out to wave off the cruise ship Ovation of the Seas. Image: Getty.

According to the ABC, a letter from ship captain Henrik Loy sent to passengers yesterday read: "The last 24 hours have been unimaginable. We've all been trying to make sense of the tragedy that occurred yesterday. We kindly ask that you continue to keep those impacted in your thoughts and prayers.

"We know this is not how you planned to enjoy your holiday, but we know we are doing everything we can ensure you still have an enjoyable time with us considering this tragic situation.


"As we continue to work with the New Zealand Government to ensure everything is taken care of, we can't thank you enough for your patience and understanding during this terrible, terrible event."

Paul Quinn, chairman for White Island Tours, said in a statement: "Devastation is an understatement.  This is a terrible tragedy and our thoughts and prayers are with everyone who has been impacted".

The company was assisting police and civil defence and its immediate focus was on supporting its staff, guests and community, Quinn said.

Geological hazard trackers GeoNet had registered moderate volcanic unrest on the island for weeks. But the nature of volcano activity is unpredictable, with the eruption unforeseen by authorities.

A GeoNet camera of the crater's rim, set to take pictures every 10 minutes, showed a string of people visiting the crater at 2.10pm.

The next shot taken, at 2.20pm, was unreadable as the blast had rendered the camera inoperable.

By 3pm AEDT, GeoNet had reduced the alert level from four to three, noting a "steady decline in activity since the eruption".

Feature images: Supplied/Michael Schade/@sch

Sign up for the "Mamamia Daily" newsletter. Your morning hit of the top news stories, to be consumed with a coffee in hand.