'A lot has to go right for this to work' – Police outline details of risky White Island body recovery mission

Source: 1News

Police have outlined how they will tackle the daunting task of recovering bodies from White Island along with a specialist team tomorrow morning.

Speaking at a media conference in Whakatāne this evening, deputy commissioner Mike Clement spoke about the operation.

"We have a plan - at lunchtime today experts presented me with options for a recovery," he began.

After elevated activity at White Island today, Mr Clement says the "risk has not passed since this morning, which is why we have been particularly cautious".

The conditions are not expected to improve overnight and the team has "planned with that in mind".

Specialist people and equipment has been brought in to Whakatāne on an NZ Defence Force C-130 Hercules.

"We spent time to get the right people with the right skills and equipment," Mr Clement said.

However, he warned the plan still comes with risks and "a lot has to go right for this to work".

"Shortly after first light, NZDF assets will deploy to the island assisted by specialists from across other agencies, including NZ Police.

"They will make every effort to get all the bodies off the island," he said.

The team will be based off White Island on the Navy frigate HMNZ Wellington. GNS scientists will be on board monitoring volcanic activity.

There are contingency plans in place to abort the mission if weather or conditions on the island deteriorate.

"The plan is subject to things beyond our control," Mr Clement said.

Members of the NZDF will be on the island along with NZ Police. In total, eight people will head onto White Island in protective gear to try and retrieve the bodies of eight people believed to be on the island.

Police know the location of six of the bodies via surveillance footage taken.

Mr Clement said that the families of those who couldn't escape the eruption "have given overwhelming support".

"They have been incredibly patient," he said. 

Whakatāne Mayor Judy Turner was also at the briefing with a message for those taking part in the recovery operation.

"We wish you all the best and we will be praying for you," she said.