New Zealand observes 1-minute silence for White Island victims

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WELLINGTON, Dec. 16 (Xinhua) — People across New Zealand observed a one-minute silence on Monday in honor of the victims of the White Island volcanic eruption.

The minute’s silence at 2:11 p.m. local time was exactly one week after the deadly eruption started on Dec. 9.

“This is a moment we can stand alongside those who have lost loved ones in this extraordinary tragedy,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison also said online that the observation was to acknowledge those injured and killed in the terrible tragedy, and to offer support to their loved ones.

A large group of people observed the minute’s silence in Maori hall of Whakatane, New Zealand’s longest continually occupied settlement and gateway to White Island at 2:11 p.m. local time. While the family members of victims observed the silence near White Island when aboard a police boat.

Altogether 47 people were on the White Island at the time of the eruption on Monday. The devastated eruption has already caused 16 deaths and two missing. The Death toll is expected to grow as many of the injured are in critical conditions. Many of the deceased are Australian tourists.

A recovery operation started from last Friday and recovered six bodies from the volcanic island. However, both underwater and land-based searches throughout the weekend were not able to locate the two bodies. An aerial search also resumed on Monday.

New Zealand Police Commissioner Mike Bush said on Monday that the police would continue to search for those two people as long as there’s a possibility of finding them.

The two Chinese nationals injured in the eruption had recovered consciousness and were in stable condition.

The White Island, a volcanic island, is a famous tourist attraction which people can explore by boat or by helicopter. But now all tourist trips to the island have been suspended by the authorities.

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