Wellington - Continued tremors on Wednesday have prevented police from retrieving the bodies of eight people still on New Zealand's White Island after a marine volcano erupted on Monday.
"This is an utterly tragic situation," National Civil Defence director Sarah Stuart-Black said at a press conference. "We all agree that recovering bodies of the deceased from the island is an absolute imperative."
She added that every day that passes was anguish for loved ones, but the preservation of human life and the prevention of further human harm must be taken into account.
Five people died after being evacuated from the island off the east coast of New Zealand's North Island on Monday and another person died on Tuesday in an Auckland hospital.
Police said earlier that they knew from a helicopter pilot who spent some time on the island in the aftermath of the eruption that "every person on that island was not alive at that time."