WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 11
New Zealand police attempts to fully identify the victims of the devastating volcano eruption are being hampered because of the horrific skin and internal injuries they all suffered.
A sixth person has been confirmed dead after the eruption and 30 people are being treated for serious burns in hospitals across New Zealand.
Police said they had contacted the families and loved ones of all 47 people who were on White Island during Monday’s explosion of ash and toxic gases but admit they face major challenges to fully identify bodies and injured survivors.
The nature of the eruption caused survivors to ingest ash and volcanic gases, resulting in horrific injuries.
“There are a number of people in hospital who cannot communicate because they have significant burns not only to skin but to internal organs,” Police Minister Stuart Nash told Radio NZ.
“They cannot speak … or communicate.”
The natural disaster has killed six people, officials say, but another eight people are presumed dead after they were unable to escape White Island.
The number of Australian dead is believed to be at least 11.
Police say their primary objective is to repatriate bodies from the island to the families but they are still waiting for a stable environment on Whakaari so the retrieval operation can go ahead.
There are 30 people scattered in hospitals across New Zealand who were sent to different treatment centres to utilise experts in different cities.
Chief Coroner Judge Deborah Marshall said six bodies have been flown to Auckland for post-mortem examinations, but “ante-mortem” data was also being examined.
“That is information about the person we believe to be deceased gathered before their death,” she said.
“For example, what they were last wearing, what jewellery they might have, any scars or tattoos that might identify them.
“There will be people, we hope, at the scene of this tragedy, gathering evidence from there.”
NZ Police Acting Assistant Commissioner Bruce Bird said he understands there is huge interest in the identification process and officials are working as fast as they can.
“As we confirm their identities we will release the names of those who have sadly died as soon as their formal identification process has been completed,” he said.
Four coroners, including Judge Marshall, are in Auckland working on the tragedy.
Paramedic Rusty Clarke was on board a helicopter that flew to White Island on a rescue mission shortly after the eruption.
He likened the ashened landscape to that of a nuclear explosion.
“Looking down on it, I would have to describe it as Chernobyl,” he told Radio NZ.
“It was just a complete, absolute whiteout of the area involved.
“It was quite a daunting experience seeing that initial landscape.”
NSW’s Energy Minister Matt Kean has linked the devastating bushfires across his state with climate change and has been backed by the
Federal Minister for Environment Sussan Ley.
They made their statements in response to questions on different ABC radio shows.
Asked on Radio National whether the Federal Government’s response to climate change was sufficient, Mr Kean said: “We cannot deny that these fires have been going on for weeks and we need to address the causes of them.,”
“We need to be doing our bit to make sure we mitigate or adapt to these more extreme weather events happening and we do our bit to abate carbon and reduce the impact of climate change.”
Ms Ley agreed with Mr Kean’s comments on ABC Radio Sydney this morning.
“The dryness of the vegetation, particularly in the north of NSW, and the reduced streamflow is creating unprecedented [conditions],” she said.
“That’s what climate science has told me and I completely agree with it.”
Ms Ley, the member for shires including Albury, Griffith and Murray, also expressed her concern for rural communities in the state, in particular the “people, the landscape, the lifestyle, the future”.
“I think it’s extraordinarily hard for everyone involved at the moment and I’m hearing the public debate,” she said.
“I’ve always said global climate change increases the risk and intensity of bushfires.”
RFS Deputy Commissioner Rob Rogers confirmed this morning 724 homes had been lost in the 2.7 million hectares burnt by bushfires this season.
Swedish singer Marie Frederiksson, the female half of the top-selling duo Roxette, who’s hit “It Must Have Been Love” featured in the popular 1990 movie Pretty Woman, starring Richard Gere and Julia Roberts, has died aged 61.
Her manager said she died after a long battle with cancer beginning in 2002, when she was diagnosed with a brain tumour after a fall.
Frederiksson formed Roxette with Per Gessle in 1986. The two released their first album the same year and went on to achieve international success in the late 1980s and 1990s.
Roxette’s debut single Neverending Love scored success in Sweden in 1986 and three years later, the duo made their mark internationally with the single The Look from their second album Look Sharp!
It was their first No.1 single on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. Others included Listen To Your Heart, It Must Have Been Love, and Joyride.
Roxette racked up sales of more than 80 million records and made several world tours.
After initially successfully battling the tumour, undergoing radiation treatment, she continued to have health problems. In 2016, she was advised to quit touring.
“Thank you, Marie, thanks for everything. You were an outstanding musician, a master of the voice, an amazing performer,” Gessle said after news of her death broke.
“Thanks for painting my black and white songs in the most beautiful colours. You were the most wonderful friend for over 40 years,” he added.
In addition to her work with Roxette, Frederiksson also had a successful solo career with a number of hits in her native Sweden.
She released her last solo album NU in 2013 with material in Swedish. It was produced by her husband Mikael Bolyos, whom she met in Australia and later married in 1994. They have two children, Josefin and Oscar..
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