New Zealand police will undertake an operation to retrieve bodies left behind following this week's volcanic eruption on White Island that killed at least eight people and injured dozens more.
Officials will attempt to recover the bodies of eight people missing and presumed dead. Eight specialists will travel to the island Friday morning local time, contingent on risk factors such as weather.
"A lot has to go right for us tomorrow to make this work," said Deputy Commissioner Mike Clement. "There is no zero risk option in regard to the plan, but we have carefully considered it. We don't expect the risk to change tonight or tomorrow, but we have planned for it."
The volcano spewed hot ash and toxic gas Monday as 47 tourists from around the globe were visiting White Island. Dozens of people had to be evacuated and many are receiving treatment for grave burns to their skin and lungs.
Volcanologists with the Global Seismographic Network said there is a 50% to 60% chance of a second eruption occurring before Friday evening local time. Although no further activity has been recorded, dangerous steam and gases are still being released from the volcano's crater.
Of the eight bodies presumed to be on the island, six have been identified via drone footage. Authorities said the first priority of the operation is to recover those accounted for. There will be a limited time frame to search for the other two bodies.
"We will have very limited opportunity to look about for the two others that we suspect to be out there somewhere," Clement said at a news conference Thursday. "But we've done lots of reconnaissance, aerial reconnaissance, and with the eyewitness observations immediately after the eruption, we can't find anything more than six. It's not to say they're not there."
Clement said he spoke to the families of several victims, who expressed support for the operation. The mayor of the island's closest town said families want a quick end to their anguish.
"We are now living with a growing sense of desperation to bring home those that we know are there and those we love," Judy Turner, the mayor of Whakatane, told Reuters. "The frustration of those families most affected is completely understandable. No news is not good news for people in this situation."
Paolo Zialcita is an intern with NPR's News Desk.