Fears HK pair among missing after volcano nightmare

Top News | Stella Wong and agencies 11 Dec 2019

Two Hongkongers were reportedly missing after the volcanic eruptions on New Zealand's White Island, but the Immigration Department said it had not received any requests for assistance as of last night.

Amid fears the volcano could erupt again, search parties were hampered to conduct rescue work and search for the eight people who remained missing after Monday's eruption, which killed at least six people.

According to a Red Cross website that allows a search for family members, the names of a man and a woman from Hong Kong - Kelvin Chan Chi-keung, 69, and Lorna Li Shun-wa, 58 - are included on a list of missing people.

The Family Links website, which allows people to register missing persons, is not an official list of missing persons.

Sources said family members of the two missing Hongkongers had lost contact with them before the eruption.

It is unclear whether they had been on the island.

The Immigration Department yesterday said it is still verifying with the Office of the Commissioner of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong, the Chinese Embassy in New Zealand, Travel Industry Council and the cruise company to check if any Hongkongers are involved.

The Chinese embassy in New Zealand confirmed that two Chinese citizens were injured in the eruption.

It said in a statement that staff members visited the two in hospitals yesterday afternoon.

The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not replied regarding whether the Chinese citizens are Hongkongers.

The eruption took place on Monday afternoon, local time, while people were touring the volcano, including many from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, the Ovation of the Seas.

Five people lost their lives in the immediate aftermath and police yesterday confirmed the death of a sixth victim.

The unnamed person was earlier being treated at Middlemore Hospital in Auckland.

Police said 47 people were on the uninhabited island at the time of the eruption - 24 from Australia, nine from the United States, five from New Zealand, four from Germany, two each from China and the United Kingdom and one from Malaysia.

The eight still unaccounted for are probably dead, police said.

"We can never say 100 percent, but I would strongly suggest that there is no one that has survived on the island," said police deputy commissioner John Tims.

Over 30 people who were injured remained in hospital.

Pete Watson from Department of Health said 27 of them have very serious burns covering more than 30 percent of their body surface. "Not all of the patients will survive," he said.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said reconnaissance flights showed no signs of life on White Island.

"The scale of this tragedy is devastating," Ardern said.

Police said it was opening a criminal investigation into the deaths that would accompany an investigation by health and safety regulators.

But hours later, police put out a statement saying that while they were investigating the deaths on behalf of the coroner, it is too early to confirm whether there will also be a criminal investigation.

stellast.wong@singtaonewscorp.com

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