As it happened: Police officially name nine people missing after White Island eruption

This article is no longer being updated. Click here for Thursday's updates.

The number of people killed by the White Island eruption on Monday has risen to six, with a patient at Middlemore Hospital succumbing to their injuries. 

Eight others are also presumed to have perished in the blast that has shocked New Zealand and the world.

Four Australian victims have been identified and confirmed dead by local news outlets, including Brisbane mother Julie Richards, 47, her 20-year-old daughter Jessica, 53-year-old Adelaide lawyer Gavin Dallow and his 15-year-old stepdaughter Zoe Hosking.

What you need to know:

  • A devastating volcanic eruption occurred on White Island / Whakaari at 2:11pm on Monday - the biggest for the volcano in recent history.

  • Forty-seven people visited the island on Monday. Of those, six are confirmed dead, 30 are in hospital, three have been discharged and eight are missing and presumed dead.
  • Jesse Langford, a 19-year-old Australian who was presumed dead along with his parents, Anthony and Kristine, and sister Winona, has been found alive in a hospital. His condition is unknown.
  • Due to volcanic activity, police have been unable to return to the island.
  • GNS Science has confirmed the volcano is becoming increasingly unstable. According to experts, there is a 40-60 percent chance of another eruption in the next 24 hours.
  • 1.2 million square-centimetres of skin will be required to treat the patients. One or two patients have burns to 90 percent of their bodies.
  • Police have released a list of nine people officially considered missing.

These live updates have now ended.

9:37pm - A pilot who defied civil aviation rules to land on the island and rescue people says he'd do it again.

Tim Barrow is one of seven private helicopter staff members who took survivors off Whakaari/White Island - between them saving 10 lives.

"I certainly never left Rotorua with the intention of breaking the rules. I went with the intention to see if we could assist in any way and just to get the job done," he told Newshub.

When he flew in, he says the scene was surreal.

"It became pretty clear there was some real carnage there."

Read more here.

8:14pm - The list contradicts reports from family members who have been told Gavin Dallow, Zoe Hosking, Julie Richards and Jessica Richards are either dead or presumed dead. 

7:23pm - Police have released a partial list of the people still missing after the eruption. 

  • Gavin Dallow (Australia)
  • Jessica Richards (Australia)
  • Krystal Browitt (Australia)
  • Richard Elzer (Australia)
  • Zoe Hosking (Australia)
  • Karla Mathews (Australia)
  • Julie Richards (Australia)
  • Tipene Maangi (New Zealand)
  • Hayden Inman (New Zealand)

Police say the list isn't complete because they haven't been able to speak with all the next of kin involved. 

There is a definitive list of the people in hospital but Police won't release it due to privacy. 

Read more here.

6:38pm - Watch the media briefing with emergency authorities in Wellington below:

6:16pm - Two more victims of the White Island eruption have been confirmed dead. Fifty-three-year-old Adelaide lawyer Gavin Dallow and his 15-year-old stepdaughter Zoe Hosking are the third and fourth Australian victims to be identified.

Dallow's wife and Zoe's mum, Lisa Dallow [also reported as Lisa Hosking] is alive and currently receiving treatment for severe burns in a Hamilton hospital.

6:06pm - Toxic gases and the possibility of another eruption are the two major risks preventing police and emergency services from returning to the island.

On Tuesday, experts predicted a 50 percent chance of a smaller or similar-sized eruption within the next 24 hours. On Wednesday, that risk has increased to 40 to 60 percent due to increased volcanic activity. The Volcanic Alert Level remains at three.

6:02pm - This is what Newshub knows about the victims so far - read here.

5:45pm - Counties Manukau Health press conference continued:

Watson said staff have been operating 24/7 due to the number of patients and the severity of the burns. All burns have to be treated differently.

Christchurch, Waikato and Hutt Valley hospitals have been operating through the night.

Repatriation of Australian patients back to Australia will help New Zealand hospitals to cope. It will also ensure that those who are safe to travel can be reunited with their families.

"We have one or two [patients] with up to 90 percent burns - we are hoping they will survive," Watson said.

5:36pm - Counties Manukau Health is providing an update on the injured.

Dr Peter Watson said 29 patients are in intensive-care burns units.

One Australian patient is being transported home. More Australian patients are likely to be taken by the defence force aircraft over the next 24 hours, depending on their conditions.

Twenty-two of the injured are on airway support to assist their breathing.

"We anticipate we will require an additional 1.2 million square-centimetres of skin [for skin grafts]," Watson said. The skin has been ordered from the US.

Gases from the volcanic eruption have made the burns more difficult to treat.

"We want to acknowledge and thank hospital staff across the country for working tirelessly and continuing to do so across the coming weeks and months," he said.

Watson confirmed the majority of the victims are severely burnt.

"The health system is set up to manage disasters and emergencies - we are equipped to deal with this."

Watson explained that as the skin is the largest organ in the body, medical experts measure burns in percentages. The palm of the hand is used to calculate the percentage - for example, 30 percent burns is equivalent to 30 palm-sized areas of the body.

As it happened: Police officially name nine people missing after White Island eruption
Photo credit: Supplied / Newshub

5:23pm - Press conference updates continued:

The identities of the missing people will be published on the police website soon.

An Australian defence aircraft is on it's way to New Zealand to uplift injured Australians.

Tims has reiterated that it is still too dangerous to return to the island and their commitment to recovering the bodies.

"We understand the stress this is causing, we understand the grief and we understand the importance of us returning to that island," Tims said.

5:13pm - John Tims, Sarah Stuart-Black and Graham Leonard are speaking to media now.

Director of Civil Defence Emergency Management, Sarah Stuart-Black, has confirmed that Bay of Plenty Civil Defence is providing welfare support for victims, survivors and their families. Help is available at the Civil Defence Centre, located at 4 Commerce St.

"It's an utterly tragic situation - we all agree retrieving bodies is an impetrative every day that passes... without recovery is another day of anguish for families," she told reporters at the Police Headquarters in Wellington.

"Preservation of human life must be taken into account - there is always a delicate balancing act in recovery operations where risk to human life exists. Risk is constantly being reassessed as everyone is united in the desire to recover those bodies and return them to their loved ones."

Director general of health, Dr Ashley Bloomfield, gave an update on the injured.

Seven patients remain at Middlemore, with four in Hutt Valley Hospital, two in Auckland City Hospital, two in Tauranga Hospital, six in Waikato, eight in Christchurch and one in Wellington. This singular patient is being transferred back to Sydney through a private company.

GNS senior volcanologist Graham Leonard said there was a high risk of an eruption on Tuesday, but on Wednesday there is an even greater risk and the parameters are worsening.

Leonard said there has been further escalation in activity overnight. As of 11am, there is a 40 to 60 percent chance of another eruption. Triggers on the island are escalating at the moment.

Deputy commissioner of district operations John Tims said police are "standing by" to go back to that island. 

"The environment on the island has changed... we are standing by to go back as soon as we are confident there are no risk and that those risks can be managed, we will do so.

"Those deployed would face serious physical and chemical hazards and we must be prepared for that."

5:05pm - A family friend of Julie and Jessica Richards, a Brisbane mother and daughter who have been confirmed dead, spoke to local media live from Brisbane.

4:53pm - GNS Science have confirmed there is a "medium likelihood" of another White Island eruption.

GNS science experts said in a statement the volcanic tremor has increased since Wednesday morning.

After reviewing all available data, scientists have concluded there is a 40 to 60 percent chance of an eruption in the next 24 hours thta would impact beyond the vent area.

"The latest data shows ground shaking is increasing," duty volcanologist Craig Miller said.

"There remains significant uncertainty around any future activity."

The Volcanic Alert Level remains at three (minor local eruption).

"Minor eruptions can still have tragic consequences," Miller said.

More information will be provided by GNS Science at the 5pm National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) and NZ Police press conference.

4:42pm - The question being asked now is why tourists were allowed on such a dangerous island. This will probably feature prominently in investigations - both by police and WorkSafe. Read more here.

4:15pm - A police boat from Tauranga has arrived and docked in Whakatane by the cordon.

4pm - Whakatane District Mayor Judy Turner said the recovery of the missing people "can't happen soon enough".

"I think it leaves a hole of unresolved things for the community and for eight families in particular. I'm really keen for [the recovery] to happen as soon as it's feasible."

Turner said the close-knit community will feel the impacts of the event for "a long time".

"In the middle of this, we have some real heroes. I'd like to mention the helicopter pilots who went in very bravely, in very dangerous circumstances - one in particular got out and looked and surveyed the situation. The people involved in the White Island tours also saved lives.

"The Prime Minister and I went up to the hospital yesterday and spoke to the Accident and Emergency staff, who had received a large number of injured people. It was a very emotional experience for everyone... to hear their stories. 

"We met with some of the other early responders... they saw things they wish they had never seen and now have to live with... first responders need to be looked after."

Turner expects "some implications" for tourism in the area following the eruption, particularly over the summer.

3:41pm - The identities of two Australian victims have reportedly been confirmed.

According to Nine News, Julie Richards, 47, and her 20-year-old daughter Jessica, from Brisbane, are the first confirmed Australian victims of the White Island eruption.

NZ Police have reportedly notified their family and the deaths have been confirmed to ABC News.

Julie and Jessica were scheduled to return home to Australia in the weekend.

3:27pm - NZ Police deputy commissioner John Tims, director of Civil Defence Emergency Management Sarah Stuart-Black and GNS senior scientist Graham Leonard will provide updates in a press conference at 5:00pm. 

3:19pm - The two injured Chinese nationals are reportedly suffering from serious burns.

One is said to be in a coma.

New Zealand's Chinese Embassy said an emergency team has been set up.

3:05pm - The number of patients in a critical condition has decreased, according to the Ministry of Health.

Twenty-two people are critical, down from 25. 

Thirty patients remain in seven hospitals nationwide. Three people have been discharged since Monday's eruption.

Patients are currently receiving treatment at Middlemore Hospital (seven), Hutt Valley Hospital (four), Auckland City Hospital (two), Tauranga Hospital (two), Waikato Hospital (six), Christchurch Hospital (eight) and Wellington Hospital (one).  

3:00pm - The imam of Christchurch's Al Noor Mosque, Gamal Fouda, has expressed his condolences on behalf of the Muslim Association of Canterbury.

"We are so sorry to hear about those who lost their lives in the eruption of White Island volcano and the earthquake near Gisborne," he wrote.

"We want you to know that our thoughts and prayers are with you. Please accept our sincere and heartfelt condolences at this most difficult of times and please pass these feelings onto your families.

"There are no words to express our sorrow for your loss."

2:45pm - Police have issued a statement regarding the identification and coronial process of the White Island victims.

A significant operation to identify and return the deceased to their loved ones has begun.

"Together with police DVI experts, forensic pathologists, ESR and odontologists the Coroner's office will proceed with identifying victims and releasing loved ones to families," police said.

An internationally-approved process for disaster management identification (DVI) is being followed.

Police lead the DVI process through gathering evidence and working with the families of those who are missing. The Coroner must then confirm the victims' identities.  

"We will gather information from post-mortem examinations, and also any ante-mortem information (information from when they were alive) to ensure people are identified correctly," said chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall.

The bodies of those confirmed deceased have been taken to Auckland for the post-mortem process.

The names of those who have died will be released when formal identification has been completed.

Any deaths in hospital may not require post-mortems as the cause of death is recorded by the hospitals and those victims may have been previously identified.

"Depending on how long it takes to retrieve the deceased from the island, it could be some weeks before all the deceased are identified," Judge Marshall said.

2:40pm - Counties Manukau Health will hold a media stand-up at 5pm on Wednesday afternoon to provide a clinical perspective on the White Island incident.

The national Burn Centre is located at Middlemore Hospital and is part of the larger burn service which includes Christchurch, Hutt Valley and Waikato hospitals.
  
Dr Peter Watson, chief medical officer, Dr John Kenealy, clinical director of surgery and perioperative services and the clinical director emergency department, Dr Vanessa Thornton,  will answer questions in relation to the clinical response to this emergency. 

2:20pm - A GoFundMe page has been set up for 33-year-old Australian Jason Griffiths, who is critically injured. 

According to the page, Griffiths is suffering from burns on "80 to 90 percent of his body" as well as head trauma.

Two of Griffiths' friends, 32-year-old Richard Elzer and Karla Mathews, reportedly remain missing. 

The group, originally from Coffs Harbour in Sydney, were passengers on the Ovation of the Seas cruise ship. Another friend is said to have stayed behind due to illness and saw the volcano erupt.

Griffiths' mother is expected to arrive in New Zealand on Wednesday.

2:07pm - A member of the missing Australian family-of-four, the Langfords, has reportedly been found alive.

Jesse Langford, 19, was presumed dead following the eruption. His sister and parents remain unaccounted for.

According to 7 News, the 19-year-old is receiving treatment at an unnamed hospital and his condition is unknown. Family members are flying to New Zealand on Wednesday.

1:53pm - Māori Television journalist Kereama Wright said the whānau of Tipene Maangi, a visitor to the island who is believed to be dead, are refusing to accept the police line of "no sign of life".

1:15pm - Demian Smith, an American diplomat in New Zealand, has shared an image of a flag at half mast at the Embassy of the United States.

12:50pm - A GiveALittle has been set up for Jake Milbank, a tour guide injured after the eruption. The page - which has not been moderated but has been created by a close friend - says he has burns to 80 percent of his body.

"This normally passionate energetic young man, who has a love for anything ocean, was in his element when this tragedy occurred," the page says.

"However he now has a long journey to recovery, and anything raised on this page will be used to help the family financially to ensure they can be by his side all the way. And provide anything Jake will need during his recovery."

Milbank is in Middlemore Hospital and is surrounded by family. It's believed Monday was his 19th birthday.

The page can be found here.

A GoFundMe set up earlier for Hayden Marshall-Inman has surpassed $6500.

Jake Milbank.
Jake Milbank. Photo credit: Givealittle

12:35pm - The British High Commission in New Zealand has reiterated that two British people have been involved in the White Island eruption.

12:30pm - Do you believe police should have already returned to the island to recover the bodies?

12:05pm - GeoNet has released a short video explaining Volcanic Alert Levels.

12pm - The next stop for the Ovation of the Seas is Wellington.

It earlier left the docks of Tauranga, with crowds looking on.

TAURANGA, NEW ZEALAND - DECEMBER 11:  Locals gather to wave off the Ovation of the Seas cruise ship, which carried passengers who travelled to White Island when it erupted, in the Port of Tauranga on December 11, 2019 in Tauranga, New Zealand. 5 people are confirmed dead and several are missing following the volcanic eruption at White Island on Monday. (Photo by John Boren/Getty Images)
Photo credit: Getty.
TAURANGA, NEW ZEALAND - DECEMBER 11:  Locals gather to wave off the Ovation of the Seas cruise ship, which carried passengers who travelled to White Island when it erupted, in the Port of Tauranga on December 11, 2019 in Tauranga, New Zealand. 5 people are confirmed dead and several are missing following the volcanic eruption at White Island on Monday. (Photo by John Boren/Getty Images)
Photo credit: Getty.
TAURANGA, NEW ZEALAND - DECEMBER 10:  The Ovation of the Seas cruise ship that carried passengers who travelled to White Island when it erupted is seen berthed a Port of Tauranga on December 10, 2019 in Tauranga, New Zealand. 5 people are confirmed dead and several are missing following the volcanic eruption at White Island on Monday. (Photo by John Boren/Getty Images)
Photo credit: Getty.

11:45am - There are two questions specifically about the White Island eruption and response to be asked in Question Time.

Tamati Coffey to the Minister of Civil Defence: What actions has the National Emergency Management Agency taken in response to the eruption on Whakaari / White Island?

Ginny Anderson to the Minister of Police: What actions have the Police taken in response to the eruption on Whakaari / White Island?

11:35am - Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has come under fire for seeming to focus more on the White Island eruption than on bushfires in Australia. 

Dozens of fires continue to rage across NSW and Queensland, with air quality in Sydney reaching levels five times what is considered hazardous. 

But many say the prime minister is failing to give the situation the attention it needs.

Find the full story here.

11:25am - In case you missed it: Patrick Gower spoke to one of the helicopter pilots who went to White Island in the aftermath of Monday's eruption.

Tom Storey was building a house when he got a call from his colleague Mark Law to say the volcano was looking "pretty active". 

He dropped his tools and "booted down" to Frontier Helicopters, to get to White Island.

Once there, Storey recognised his friend, Hayden Marshall-Inman, who was "beyond help".

Find Gower's exclusive story here.

11:20am - Paul Quinn, the chair of White Island Tours, has released a statement to say that the recovery of loved ones from the island is of paramount concern. 

"All of our resources including vessels, protection equipment and personnel have been made available to NZ Police and Civil Defence to support the recovery mission," Quinn said.

"For Ngāti Awa (tangata whenua of Whakatāne) our responsibility to provide care for our people and visitors during this difficult time is foremost in our minds and actions.

"We are focussed on  wrapping the necessary support around affected families and staff, all of whom are understandably distraught."

Quinn said a prayer service is being held saily for staff and affected families.

"Local liaisons are being appointed to support overseas families who are arriving in Whakatāne. Support packages are being put together today including practical and useful items for those families as they await news and updates on the recovery mission.  

"We are committed to facilitating family members’ travel and other arrangements while we all await the return of loved ones to their families."

He said that there are many questions "left to be answered".

11:15am - There appears to be a significant plume of smoke coming from the island.

As it happened: Police officially name nine people missing after White Island eruption
Photo credit: Geonet.

11:10am - The HMNZS Wellington is the furtherest away from White Island it has been all day. It could be sailing towards Tauranga. 

10:45am - The press conference has been ended abruptly in the middle of questions. 

Watch the moment here.

10:42am - Geonet says that since 4am, the level of volcanic tremor has "significantly increased" at the island. 

"This has been accompanied by vigorous steaming and localised mud jetting in several of the craters created by the eruption on Monday. We interpret these signals as evidence of continued high gas pressures within the volcano.

"The situation remains highly uncertain as to future activity. Eruptions in the next 24 hours are still likely to occur."

10:40am - Bird says police are confident no one is alive on the island. 

The environment at the island is being constantly being monitored. Bird doesn't want to put anyone's life at risk by starting a recovery operation. The weather is one factor being considered, with conditions set to worsen over Wednesday.

Nothing is being ruled out, however. 

10:35am - The identification process includes several stages, such as collecting clothing and jewellery and looking at tattoos. People who survived the explosion may also give evidence.

Bodies will be taken to the Auckland mortuary if they are collected from the island. If someone dies in a hospital, they will be dealt with there.

10:30am - Acting Assistant Commissioner Bruce Bird tells media in Whakatane that the bodies of the dead have been flown to Auckland for identification and coronial processes.

The police won't confirm the nationalities of the dead yet. The identities of the dead will be released after the formal identification process is completed. 

Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall says a Mass Fatality Incident has been declared.

10:25am - Police have released a statement acknowledging the desire of families for information and to get their loved ones back from the island.

"It is important to note that the environment on the island has changed since the eruption," the statement says.

"It is the role of GNS to provide Police with advice as to the safety of deploying onto the island.

"A meeting with scientists will take place later this morning and further clarity is expected at that time."

A drone was also successfully launched off the island at 8:30am on Wednesday.

Police have disaster victim identification specialists standing by in Whakatane ready to be deployed to formally examine and document bodies at the scene.

"Those deploying to the island will likely encounter serious physical and chemical hazards, for which we must be prepared.

"At this stage, Police is not in a position to release further information about the nationalities or identities of the victims."

There are 30 patients across six hospitals in New Zealand. Twenty-five patients are in a critical condition. The remainder are in a serious condition.

10:05am - The Ovation of the Seas is currently sailing past the island, just outside of the exclusion zone. It is heading to Wellington and Picton.

10am - The family of the American newly-weds have arrived at Auckland airport.

9:55am - The Deodar 111 boat has been at White Island all morning. The boat is often used during maritime rescues and supports speculation that a recovery operation is going ahead on Wednesday.

The HMNZ Wellington continues to sail just offshore.

9:50am - Sylvain Plasse had just left the Ovation of the Seas ship when he saw White Island erupt.

He told Australia's Sunrise programme that he was initially excited to see the eruption, but now feels guilty knowing its deadly impact.

"It was destroying inside."

Plasse said there are fewer people out on the loungers on the cruise ship and there is a somber mood. Whenever passengers hear bells signalling an announcement from the captain, "everybody stops dead in their track".

"We are starving for information."

9:10am - A press conference hosted by the police and the Coroner is expected at 10:30am. We will livestream this.

They will discuss the identification and coronial process.

9:05am - The HMNZS Wellington has been sitting off the island throughout Wednesday morning.

9am - The families and friends of victims continue to visit the cordon of the authorities' headquarters in Whakatane. Locals are also dropping off flowers.

8:50am - The High Commission of Malaysia in Wellington said on Wednesday morning that a Malaysian citizen was injured in the eruption. 

"The victim was reportedly in critical condition and is currently receiving treatment at a Christchurch hospital. The Malaysian High Commission in Wellington has not yet received further information regarding a Malysian citizen who was reported missing earlier."

On Tuesday, the High Commission said one of the dead was Malaysian.

8:40am - A British couple who were a cruise of New Zealand and listed as missing on the Red Cross website have made contact with their family, according to The Guardian.

Karl and Deborah Rakos were initially reported as missing following the eruption, but Karl's mother has now told British media that they have contatced her and are on a ship heading to Australia.

Two British women have been confirmed as injured by the High Commissioner to New Zealand. 

8:30am - In an opinion piece, The AM Show host Duncan Garner says the police's refusal to head to White Island must be questioned.

A recovery operation hasn't been given the green light due to advice from scientists saying the island is unstable.

8:20am - There appears to still be steam or ash rising from White Island.

8:10am - A hero pilot who rescued people in the immediate aftermath of the White Island eruption says conditions are right to return.

Mike Law was one of the many selfless Kiwis who rushed to help dozens of people who were severely burned.

Emergency services are still assessing conditions on the island to launch a recovery operation. But Law says they could leave now.

"In actual fact the last two days have probably been the best conditions to go there."

Police Minister Stuart Nash has defended the response, telling The AM Show he was "absolutely confident" everything had been done to land on the island.

"The police need to ensure that anyone to that island goes across for the victim recovery that is safe for the people on that island.

The full story can be found here.

8am - Channel 7 reporter Rob Ovadia told The AM Show there was a kinship between New Zealanders and Australians, something cemented by this disaster.

He said there has been speculation that up to 11 Australians have been killed. It is also expected that more of the burn victims will die.

"This is looking to be the greatest mass casualty of Australians, at least since MH17 in May 2014."

Twenty-seven Australians were on that flight when it went missing.

Ovadia doesn't believe the disasters New Zealand has seen is turning Australians off visiting. He said Aussies are typically adventurous and understand the risks. 

7:45am - The Ovation of the Seas has left Tauranga's harbour.

7:20am - A Los Angeles radio host has tweeted that his friends were on White Island before it erupted. He is now on the cruise ship.

"Greetings from New Zealand! Everyone in our group is safe and sound....well, as safe as you can be with the unlimited booze package and cruise ship buffet access. Here is a pic that friends Sandy and Tim took in front of White Island volcano before it erupted," John Phillips said.

7:10am - The Ovation of the Seas is leaving Tauranga. The cruise ship left the dock at about 6:50am and is currently in the harbour.

Support staff from the ship will remain in Tauranga to help passengers affected by the eruption. It was meant to depart on Monday night but was delayed by the diaster. Many of those injured on White Island had come to New Zealand on the ship.

Crowds turned out to watch the ship leave.

"Hearing the horns from ovation of the seas this morning was a bit sad. my heart goes out to the families who have lost loved ones in the white island eruption :(" one person wrote on Twitter.

The ship leaving.
The ship leaving. Photo credit: Ports of Tauranga.

7:05am - The British High Commission in New Zealand has sent a warm message to those affected.

"Following the tragic eruption on Whakaari/White Island on Monday, the team at the New Zealand High Commission London extends its warmest sympathies to the families and loved ones of those affected," the statement said.

"E aroha nui atu ana ki tenei - Our thoughts and deepest sympathy are with you."

7am - The director of China's Foreign Ministry has confirmed two Chinese nationals were injured in Monday's blast.

"Upon learning the volcanic eruption, the embassy immediately activated its emergency response mechanism, worked to verify information involving Chinese nationals and visited those hospitalised for injuries," Hua Chunying said.

Hua said that the Chinese Government was "deeply saddened".

"We hope New Zealand will do its best to treat the injured, search for those unaccounted for, and confirm with the Chinese side information on Chinese casualties as soon as possible."

6:50am - Labour MP Kiri Allen has tweeted that there was a tribute to the Whakaari tragedy on an Air Chathams flight. 

"Everyone here at home has been impacted in a range of ways, and everyone knows someone that went to support the victims on Monday. Proud of our people and place."

6:40am - National Party leader Simon Bridges has told The AM Show that it was extraordinary seeing the work of first responders and emergency authorities. He visited the affected region on Tuesday afternoon. 

"They are amazing people. It makes you feel real good about New Zealand when you see the level of compassion that is there," Bridges said.

On the issue of police announcing a criminal investigation was underway, before retracting that statement, Bridges said it wasn't a good look.

"It is very unfortunate to have a situation where they say something like that with the uncertainty it creates."

The full story can be found here.

6:30am - Victim Support says the families of those still unaccounted for on White Island are struggling to know how to react.

It has been reaching out to families, including those overseas.

Some Australian families, however, were frustrated by an initial lack of information about their loved ones. 

6am - Australian families and consular staff from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade arrived in New Zealand late on Tuesday.

"Some families of victims have made arrangements to travel, and we understand that some of those will arrive on flights later tonight. The government in that context is expediting any required passport arrangements and providing all other necessary help so that family members are able to travel quickly," Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said on Tuesday.

5:50am - A tourist on the Ovation of the Seas told The Sydney Morning Herald that DNA tests were being conducted on the ship on Tuesday night. Officials also wanted samples of items of missing people which would allow them to identify those had perished.

5:40am - Whakatane's economy is expected to take a hit after the eruption.

AUT Professor of Tourism Simon Milne says the island was well-known as a tourist attraction.

Milne told Newshub that businesses on the mainland such as restaurants and petrol stations will all be affected.

5:30am - A GoFundMe has been set up for Hayden Marshall-Inman.

The White Island Tours guide remains on the island dead, lying on rise beside a stream. First responders were able to get to his body and move him to a safe spot before helping others.

"He was a guy that would do anything for anyone. I read a post from someone on Facebook yesterday or last night, saying he leaves $5 in the local dairy for whoever can't afford something, every week he goes in," his brother Mark told Patrick Gower on Tuesday.

The GoFundMe has raised more $1000 in six hours. 

"Even in good times it's difficult living on the other side of the world from family. You miss out on closeness, comfort and the little things that in the end mean so much. In the worst of times this distance comes as a crushing blow," the fundraiser says.

"I'm hoping to raise money to help contribute to the huge cost incurred by Renee and Lorne travelling with their three beautiful boys from Vancouver to Whakatane to be with their brother, brother in law and uncle one last time."

Tributes continue to pour in for the guide. 

Janine Walter worked with Marshall-Inman in the hospitality sector, and says he was simply an incredible person.

"He's left a huge hole," an emotional Walter told Newshub. "It's just sad - he loved what he was doing. He was always doing something and always into the outdoors."

5:15am - The Ovation of the Seas will depart Tauranga at 6:45am, Royal Carribean International has confirmed.

The ship - which had 28 passengers who visited White Island on Monday - stayed docked in the Bay of Plenty centre "to allow our personnel to assist local authorities and support those affected by this unforeseen natural disaster".

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

"A team will remain onsite in Tauranga and all hospital locations to ensure those affected by Monday's incident are taken care of in terms of medical help, counseling, accommodations, and transport.

 "Our priority continues to be to ensure that all guests and crew impacted are well taken care of and we assist the local authorities in any way we can. We thank our guests onboard for their patience and understanding during this tragic situation."

4:50am - The death toll rose overnight, with police confirming a sixth person had died.

They were being treated at Middlemore Hospital, where the national burns unit is.

"Police remain focused on supporting families at this terrible time," a statement said.

Post-mortems on the bodies is expected to begin on Wednesday, with Australian specialists also believed to be travelling to New Zealand to assist.

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