New Zealand volcano eruption death toll rises to 17 after another person dies

New Zealand volcano eruption death toll rises to 17 after another person dies

White Island volcano New Zealand
Photo provided by Lillani Hopkins taken on Dec 9, 2019 shows the eruption of the volcano on White Island off the coast of Whakatane, New Zealand. (Photo: AP)

WELLINGTON: New Zealand police said on Monday (Dec 23) that one of those injured during the eruption of a volcano visited by tourists earlier this month died in an Auckland hospital, bringing the official death toll to 17 while two remain missing.

"Police can confirm a further person has died in Middlemore Hospital last night … police were advised of the death shortly before 11pm," said Police Deputy Commissioner John Tims in a statement.

Police did not provide any details on the identity or nationality of the person. The majority of the previously named victims after the powerful eruption of White Island, also known by its Māori name of Whakaari, were Australian citizens or permanent residents.

Those still missing, presumed dead, are Winona Langford, a 17-year-old Australian, and Hayden Marshall-Inman, a 40-year-old New Zealand tour guide. Their bodies are believed to have been washed out to sea.

READ: Last of New Zealand volcano dead identified

Police has scaled back a search for the bodies but have said they have not given up hope of finding them.

READ: New Zealand troops retrieve six bodies from volcano in daring mission

There has been criticism that people 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 thrill-seeker 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 one year, and will carry potential criminal penalties of up to five years in jail.

Source: Reuters/de