White Island eruption: Jacinda Ardern announces minute of silence to remember victims

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced a national minute of silence to remember those killed and injured in the White Island eruption.

On Monday. December 9, at 2:11pm, Whakaari erupted, spewing steam, ash and gas over the volcanic island and shooting rocks and other objects from the earth. 

Forty-seven people were on the Bay of Plenty island at the time of eruption, and since, 16 people have been announced as dead, with more than 20 others remaining injured - some critically. Six bodies were recovered from the island on Friday, with two others remianing missing, with one understood to be in the water.

Ardern visited Whakatane throughout the last week to spend time with victims and first responders. She announced on Saturday that New Zealand will hold a minute's silence at 2:11pm on Monday, December 16, to remember those impacted by the eruption.

"Wherever you are in New Zealand, or around the world, this is a moment we can stand alongside those who have lost loved ones in this extraordinary tragedy," she said.

"Together we can express our sorrow for those who have died and been hurt, and our support for their grieving families and friends."

The Prime Minister will be at her weekly Cabinet meeting at the time, where she and her colleagues will observe the silence.

Diving squads will continue searching for the missing bodies on Saturday.

The bodies recovered from Whakaari / White Island have been taken to Auckland for the post mortem and disaster victim identification process.

"The victims and their families are our priority but we also have important obligations.

"We must work on behalf of the Coroner to ensure correct identification," said Deputy Commissioner John Tims, National Operations Commander.

"It would be unforgivable to get the identification process wrong."

Recovery efforts were initially hampered by scientific advice which suggested it would be too risky to return to the island. However, despite an up to 60 percent chance of an eruption on Friday, the operation went ahead.

On Saturday, GeoNet said the likelihood of an eruption has decreased to 35 percent to 50 percent. The level of volcanic tremor has also declined "significantly".

"A very short lived and un-sustained period of ash emission has been observed, however ashfall didn’t extend beyond the active vent area," a bulletin from volcanologist Brad Scott said.

"We conducted an overflight Friday (13 December) afternoon, confirming small scale gas jetting and steam burst are occurring in the active vents. The hazy and fumy conditions restricted the temperature measurements of the vent area. Overnight web camera images recorded a glow from the vent area, confirming high heat flow.

"The combined interpretation of all our data is still that magma is degassing at shallow depths and the situation remains highly volatile."

Some of GNS Science's monitoring equpiment on the island has been partially buried by ash and could stop working over the week if batteries run out.