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New Zealand calls off search for two remaining victims in volcanic eruption

ANI | Updated: Dec 24, 2019 12:41 IST

Wellington [New Zealand], Dec 24 (ANI): The New Zealand police on Tuesday terminated the search operation for two victims who still remain missing after a deadly volcanic eruption on the White Island earlier this month.
Australian tourist Winona Langford, 17, and New Zealander Hayden Marshall-Inman, 40, who was a tour guide, became untraceable shortly after the volcanic eruption and are believed to be dead, CNN reported.
"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 divers and helicopter teams carried out "extensive shoreline and substantial aerial searches" but "sadly" found no further items of significance, McGregor added.
The police believe that their bodies have been washed out into the sea and may never be found.
"The families of the two missing people have been informed of this decision," said the police, however, stressing that they would immediately respond if any new information comes to light.
The development comes just 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 died in a hospital in Auckland. Over a dozen 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.
Authorities have not yet included Langford and Marshall-Inman 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. (ANI)