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New Zealand recovers six more bodies from White Island

Volcanic eruption death toll now 14
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Posted at 8:20 PM, Dec 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-12 22:28:36-05

NEW ZEALAND — A specialist team recovered six bodies from White Island on Friday, days after the island's volcano erupted while a tour group was visiting.

The death toll has risen to 14. Two people are still missing on the island and presumed dead, officials have said.

The six bodies were taken by helicopter to the HMS NZ Wellington, said Deputy Commissioner John Tims of the New Zealand Police.

The search team had to wear additional protective safety equipment, which slowed down the recovery process, a police spokeswoman told CNN.

There were 47 people on the island -- also known as Whakaari -- when the volcano erupted Monday with little warning, spewing a massive cloud of smoke and ash.

Several dozen people were badly burned in the eruption. Specialist burn units in New Zealand are treating 21 people and seven more have been flown to Australia for treatment, health officials said Thursday.

White smoke was still billowing from the volcano Thursday. GeoNet, New Zealand's hazard monitoring system, said Thursday evening there was still a "medium" likelihood of 50% to 60% of eruptive activity over the next 24 hours, making the military's rescue mission a risky one.

White Island, about 31 miles (50 kilometers) off Whakatane on the country's North Island, has been a popular tourist destination.

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