Terrifying accounts of badly injured tourists running into the sea to escape the White Island volcano explosion emerged today as the official death toll was raised to six.
Police confirmed the latest casualty had died in hospital, where more than two dozen others were being treated for severe burns following yesterday’s blast. Eight were missing feared dead.
Of the 31 injured, at least 27 suffered greater than 71 per cent body surface burns and some could die, Dr Peter Watson, the government’s chief medical officer said.
The ages of the injured range from 13 to 72. Two of them were British women and some were said to have up to 90 per cent burns.
It came as dramatic accounts emerged of the moments immediately after the eruption in the Bay of Plenty, North Island. Onlookers told how tourists ran into the sea to escape the scalding steam and ash, only to emerge covered in burns.
Geoff Hopkins was in a boat after visiting the island with his daughter. He told the New Zealand Herald as injured people were transported onto their boat screaming in pain, he and daughter Lillani poured fresh water on to them and cut them out of their clothes.
He said they were “horrifically” burned on their exposed skin and faces, and even under their clothes, adding: “I’ve never seen blisters like that.”
Desperate relatives were today continuing to wait for information about missing loved ones with the authorities deciding it remained too dangerous for crews to land on the island.
Experts said there was a 50 per cent chance of another small eruption within a day.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said 11 Australians were unaccounted for, with 13 in hospital. Three were suspected to be among the initial five confirmed dead, he told reporters in Sydney.
The first confirmed victim of the disaster was experienced tour guide Hayden Marshall-Inman, described as young and energetic with the “kindest heart”. Another tour guide, Tipene Maangi, 23, has not been heard from.
An American couple on honeymoon were among those seriously hurt. Matthew and Lauren Urey were on a day trip from the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Ovation.
Mr Urey, 36, was airlifted to a hospital in Christchurch with burns over 80 per cent of his body, while his wife, 32, underwent surgery suffering 20 per cent burns.
Brisbane mother and daughter Julie and Jessica Richard, aged 47 and 20, were among the missing. Family of four Anthony, Kristine, Jesse, 19, and Winona Langford, 17, have also not been heard from.