New Zealand police call off search for two remaining victims of White Island eruption

National and World News
In this handout image provided by the New Zealand Defence Force, recovery operation at Whakaari/White Island on December 13, 2019 in Whakatane, New Zealand. (Photo by New Zealand Defence Force via Getty Images)

(CNN) — New Zealand police have ended the search for two remaining victims still missing after a deadly volcanic eruption on New Zealand’s White Island, also known as Whakaari.

Australian tourist Winona Langford, 17, and New Zealander Hayden Marshall-Inman, 40, who was a tour guide, were unaccounted for following the eruption and believed dead.

“The search for the two missing victims of the Whakaari / White Island eruption has been suspended,” Bay of Plenty District Commander, Superintendent Andy McGregor said in a statement on Tuesday.

The decision was made after dive and helicopter teams had carried out “extensive shoreline and substantial aerial searches” but “sadly no further items of significance have been located,” McGregor said.

Police believe their bodies could have washed out to sea and may never be found.

“The families of the two missing people have been informed of this decision,” McGregor said. He added that police will be ready to respond if new information comes to light.

The end of the search comes just over two weeks after White Island erupted while 47 people were visiting the volcano.

On Monday, police raised the death toll to 17 after another person succumbed to their injuries in a hospital in Auckland. Dozens of people suffered severe injuries in the disaster and many are still undergoing treatment for serious burns.

Most of those who died in the eruption were either Australian citizens or permanent residents of that country. Last week, 13 patients were transferred to hospitals in Australia, though one person later died.

Langford and Marshall-Inman have not been included in the official death toll.

Two other members of the Langford family died in the eruption, and another remains in hospital in Australia, according to police.

On Friday 13, authorities recovered six bodies from the volcano. Difficult conditions and the threat of another eruption prevented specialist teams from going to White Island in the days after the disaster.

The active volcano off the east coast of the country’s North Island had become a popular tourist destination in recent years, receiving more than 10,000 visitors annually.

Questions have been raised over how safe it was for tourists to be on the island, and whether more could have been done to prevent the tragedy.

Last week, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said an investigation into the eruption, conducted by New Zealand’s workplace safety regulator WorkSafe, will take a year to complete.

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