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New Zealand observes silence one week after White Island volcano killed 18

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her cabinet observe a moment of silence Credit: AP

New Zealanders observed a minute’s silence on Monday at the moment that a volcano erupted a week earlier, killing 18 people and leaving others with severe burns.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said wherever people were in New Zealand or around the world, it was an opportunity to stand alongside those who had lost loved ones in the tragedy.

“Together we can express our sorrow for those who have died and been hurt, and our support for their grieving families and friends,” she said in a statement.

On social media, some New Zealanders said drivers pulled their cars over to pay their respects.

New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern observes a silence in memory of the victims. Credit: AP

Ms Ardern also took to Instagram to post a picture of White Island which she took during a visit last week, paying tribute to the "many people who did extraordinary things to save lives", adding that those who died "are now forever linked to New Zealand, and we will hold them close".

"A week ago New Zealand experienced the most extraordinary tragedy - an eruption on Whakaari/White Island while kiwi guides and guests from around the world were visiting," the 39-year-old wrote.

"Lives were lost immediately, and in the days that have followed others have succumbed to their injuries.

"There are almost no words for the stories of both the aftermath and the loss that has followed.

"I want to pay tribute to the many people who did extraordinary things to save lives - whether it was through rescue efforts or the ongoing response by health professionals across the country.

"To the recovery team who made it their mission to bring loved ones back from the island, right through to the council, emergency management team who have supported the local community all the way through.

"To Ngāti Awa, for the outpouring of manaakitanga and support to all that have needed a safe haven during this time.

"Those who have been lost are now forever linked to New Zealand, and we will hold them close.

"(Image: a photo I took while travelling out to Whakatane with our defence team. A beautiful outlook on a very sad day.)"

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Two bodies have yet to be recovered from the White Island eruption site after land and sea searches have so far come up empty-handed.

Police have said they will continue looking.

That has left the official death toll at 16, although authorities believe 18 people died, including several who died from their injuries in the week following the eruption in hospitals in New Zealand and Australia.

Most of the 47 people on the island at the time it erupted were tourists, including 24 Australian citizens, four Australian residents and two Britons.

Searches continue for two people who are presumed dead. Credit: New Zealand Defence Force/AP

The victims killed when Whakaari - the Maori name for White Island - erupted have so far been named as:

  • Matthew Hollander, 13, a US citizen who lived in Australia
  • Berend Hollander, 16, a US citizen who lived in Australia
  • Karla Matthews, 32, an Australian
  • Krystal Browitt, a veterinary nursing student from Melbourne, Australia, who turned 21 on November 29
  • Zoe Hosking, 15, from Adelaide
  • Gavin Dallow, 53, Ms Hosking's step-father, also from Adelaide
  • Anthony Langford, 51, from Sydney
  • Tipene Maangi, 24, a tour guide from New Zealand
Police divers prepare to search the waters near White Island. Credit: AP

Mr Langford's wife, Kristine, and 17-year-old daughter Winona remain unaccounted for.

The volcano moments after the eruption. Credit: AP

New Zealand Police national operations commander John Tims said the process of identifying victims and releasing bodies to their loved ones was ongoing in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city.

“We will continue to release the names of those who have died as soon as we are able to,” he said.

Two British women were among those admitted to hospital in New Zealand after the volcano erupted.

All 13 Australians who suffered burns were transported to hospitals around Australia for treatment, at least eight of whom are reported to be in critical conditions.

Plumes of steam rise above White Island following the volcano eruption. Credit: AP