A criminal investigation has been launched after a volcanic eruption in New Zealand killed five with eight more presumed dead.
Forty-seven people were on White Island, 50km north-east of New Zealand, when the volcano erupted with a large plume of ash and steam at 2.11pm on Monday.
Police Deputy Commissioner John Tim announced the investigation in a press conference on Tuesday.
Thirty-eight of those on the island were on a day tour from cruise ship Ovation Of The Seas.
The ship was due to leave the Bay of Plenty at 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday to continue its tour around New Zealand – but a Royal Caribbean spokesman said it ‘will remain in port as long as needed to assist with the situation.’
Rescuers are desperately trying to find eight people who never made it off the island but no-one has set foot on the volcanic isle since Monday afternoon because it is too unsafe.
Asked if it’s possible that some are still alive, Mr Tim said: ‘I would strongly suggest that there is no-one that has survived on the island.’
He said his officers were working with webcam photos of the crater taken before the explosion to help locate bodies.
Police are also using drones but strong winds have hampered efforts.
On the island at the time of the eruption were two Britons, four Germans, 24 Australians, five Kiwis, two Chinese, one Malaysian and nine Americans.
Of the 13 killed or presumed dead, at least three are believed to be Australian and at least one is from New Zealand.
The nationalities of the others has not been confirmed but the two Brits are not among them.
After the volcano erupted, 39 people made it to the mainland via boat and helicopter, of which five have died from their burns which were described by witnesses as ‘horrific’ and left paramedics traumatized.
New Zealand’s chief medical officer Dr Pete Watson said it had been a year’s worth of work in one day at Middlemore Hospital in terms of response.
Three people have been discharged from hospital but 31 are still being treated, including several fighting for their lives, and Watson said it was likely some would not survive.