New Zealand volcano death toll rises to 18 after another person dies in Australian hospital

FILE PHOTO: Flowers are seen at a memorial at the harbour in Whakatane, following the White Island volcano eruption in New Zealand, December 11, 2019. REUTERS/Jorge Silva/File Photo

WELLINGTON (Reuters) – The death toll from last month’s volcanic eruption in New Zealand rose to 18 as one of the injured died in a hospital in Australia, police said on Monday, while two remain missing and are presumed dead.

“Police can confirm a further person died in an Australian hospital last night as a result of injuries suffered in the Whakaari/White Island eruption,” New Zealand’s deputy police commissioner, John Tims, said in a statement on Monday.

Police did not provide 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.

Two others are still missing since the incident and presumed dead. New Zealand scaled down the search operations and has acknowledged that the bodies of the two missing people may never be found.

There were 47 people, mostly tourists, on or near the White Island volcano when it erupted on Dec. 9. Those who survived are still being treated in hospitals in New Zealand and Australia for severe burn injuries.

Official inquiries into the eruption and New Zealand’s response will take up to a year to conclude, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said.

Reporting by Praveen Menon; Editing by Peter Cooney

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