White Island body recovery “going to plan”

White Island during its eruption on Monday. Photo: NZ Police.

UPDATE 11.20AM: Six bodies have been successfully recovered from Whakaari/White Island and are now on board HMNZS Wellington.

UPDATE 10.32AM: National operations commander deputy commissioner John Tims says six bodies have been prepared for air lifting off Whakaari/White Island.

"The bodies are now in the process of being transported to HMNZS Wellington by helicopter."

EARLIER:

Police says the operation to recover the bodies on Whakaari/White Island this morning is going to plan.

Deputy commissioner Mike Clement says the recovery team is in the area where they believe the majority of the bodies are.

"The operation is taking more time than expected, this is due to the protective equipment the recovery team is wearing which can be restrictive and heavy but is necessary.

"Conditions for the operation are good in regard to the weather, sea state and the environment on the island."

The operation began with a blessing held at seas with family members of the victims still on the island.

RNZ reports that the Defence Force landed on the island shortly after 8am.

Eight bodies are believed to be on the volcano, but Mike says only six have been sighted from the air.

He is not sure if the specialist team, who will be wearing protective clothing and gas masks, will have enough time to find the other two.

The remains will be helicoptered onto the navy HMNZ Wellington waiting in waters close by.

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