NZ Police launch criminal probe as hopes of finding volcano survivors fade

Police in New Zealand will launch a criminal investigation following the deadly White Island volcano eruption.

Officials say they would look into anyone was criminally responsible for the deaths and injuries suffered.

Eight people are still missing and are presumed dead following the eruption, with fears the majority of those are Australians.


Another 31 people remain in hospital with 25 of those being treated in various burns units across New Zealand.

New Zealand Deputy Police Commissioner John Tims says they will get to the bottom of what happened.

“It’s early days yet, so we’re just going to have to work through the evidence, talk to people, and conduct the investigation” Deputy Commissioner Tims told reporters on Tuesday.

Authorities have now confirmed there were 47 people on the island at the time of the eruption, 24 of those Australian.

Three Australians are among the five confirmed fatalities so far, with the death toll expected to rise.

Deputy Commissioner Tims says there has been no signs of life on the island.

“We can never say 100 per cent, but I would strongly suggest there is no one that has survived on the island.

“And I base that on the fact that those brave people that went across to the island yesterday and rescued a number of people said that they could not see anyone that were still alive.”

Rescue crews have still be unable to access the island because of the dangerous conditions.

Attempts to launch drones to survey the island have also been unsuccessful due to strong winds.

Ministry of Health spokesman Pete Watson also warned that a number of those being treated in hospital may not survive.

“Of those injured, 27 of the 31 have suffered greater than 30 per cent total body surface area burns, and many have inhalation burns that require airways support,” he said.

Mr Watson says they would look at transferring some of the Australians home if their condition allowed it.

Civil Defence Emergency Management Director Sarah Stuart-Black says there was a 50 per cent chance there could be another eruption in the next 24 hours.

“There’s an extremely low likelihood of ash, possible gas may be smelt, depending on wind direction.”

“A large eruption is unlikely at this time.”

The volcanic alert is at level three.