The death toll resulting from a volcanic eruption on a privately-owned New Zealand island has risen to 17, authorities said.
The Dec. 9 eruption occurred on the popular White Island, a well-known tourist destination, and officials said 47 people were on the island at the time. White Island is also known by its Maori name, Whakaari.
New Zealand’s Deputy Commissioner of Police John Timms said in a statement that police were advised of the latest death related to the incident at 11 pm on Dec. 22.
Police have not identified the person, but their statement said the person died at Middlemore Hospital in Auckland, New Zealand.
The latest death toll update follows an announcement from New Zealand police on Tuesday that they will be scaling back their search for two missing people who are now presumed dead.
Winona Langford, a 17-year-old Australian, and Hayden Marshall-Inman, a 40-year-old New Zealand tour guide, are believed to have been washed out to sea, according to police.
Deputy police commissioner Mike Clements said his department will need to wait for the bodies to appear after conducting a weeks-long, exhaustive search.
“We have to wait for Mother Nature to produce those bodies,” he said, adding, “it may or it may not.”
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