In the wake of the volcano eruption on New Zealand’s Whakaari / White Island at 2.15pm local time yesterday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has given an update on the Australian casualties in a press conference. See the video below for his statement.
The PM confirms that 24 Aussie tourists were enjoying a cruise around the area when the volcano eruption occurred, and of these people 13 have been hospitalised and 11 remain unaccounted for. He added that up to three of the five total fatalities confirmed so far were Australian citizens.
“This is a very, very hard day for many families whose loved ones have been caught up in this terrible, terrible tragedy,” Morrison said. “I fear there is worse to come.”
His statement follows New Zealand Prime Minster Jacinda Arden‘s confirmation that five people had died when the volcano erupted, eight people were still missing, and 31 people were in hospital, with may of those patients in a critical condition.
It seems Australians may make up the bulk of the missing. According to The Age, Arden said:
To those who have lost or are missing family and friends, we share in your unfathomable grief at this moment in time and in your sorrow. Your loved ones stood alongside Kiwis who were hosting you here and we grieve with you and we grieve with them.
To our Australian family especially we will do everything we can to support you as you have supported us. I have been in regular communication with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison from yesterday evening and will continue to do so across the course of the day. Our duty is to return loved ones and … there is much work to be done.
New Zealand Police have said they expect to find no survivors on the island once it’s safe for them to access it.
We’ll continue to update you as more information is available.Image: AAP / Michael Schade