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New Zealand volcano: Minute's silence marks one week after eruption

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image captionPrime Minister Jacinda Ardern observes a minute's silence during her cabinet meeting

A minute's silence has been observed in New Zealand, marking one week since the deadly eruption of White Island volcano.

The tribute was held at 14:11 local time (01:11 GMT), the exact moment of the eruption.

Sixteen deaths have been confirmed while two bodies are still missing, believed to be in the water off the island.

About 20 people remain in intensive care with severe burns.

Relatives of some of the victims observed the silence on a police boat near the island, local media reported.

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

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image captionThe minute's silence was marked in Whakatane, the tourist town known as the "gateway" to White Island

On Sunday, teams returned to White Island - also known by its Maori name of Whakaari - and divers searched the water but, again, were unable to locate the missing bodies.

"This is a difficult and ongoing task," Deputy Commissioner John Tims said in a statement, adding that police remained committed to retrieving the bodies.

On Instagram, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern paid tribute to "many people who did extraordinary things to save lives", saying: "Those who have been lost are now forever linked to New Zealand, and we will hold them close."

Ms Ardern marked the minute's silence during her cabinet's weekly meeting.

Meanwhile, the government has approved a NZD $5m ($3.2m; £2.4m) fund to help small businesses in Whakatane - the tourist town "gateway" to White Island.

Ms Ardern said WorkSafe, New Zealand's regulator for workplace safety, had already opened an investigation into the disaster, while the coroner is conducting a separate inquiry.

The prime minister added that the government was waiting on advice about whether further inquiries were needed.

"There remain questions to be asked and answered," she said.

What about the identification of the victims?

The identification process is being carried out in Auckland by experts including a pathologist, a forensic dentist and a fingerprint officer.

The first victim officially named was Krystal Eve Browitt, a 21-year-old Australian from Melbourne who was visiting the island with her family.

Other victims named by police so far are:

  • Tipene Maangi, 24, from New Zealand
  • Zoe Ella Hosking, 15, from Australia
  • Gavin Brian Dallow, 53, from Australia
  • Anthony James Langford, 51, from Australia
  • Matthew Robert Hollander, 13, a US citizen and Australian permanent resident
  • Berend Lawrence Hollander, 16, a US citizen and Australian permanent resident
  • Martin Berend Hollander, 48, from Australia
  • Karla Michelle Matthews, 32, from Australia
  • Jessica Richards, 20, from Australia
  • Jason David Griffiths, 33, from Australia
  • Kristine Elizabeth Langford, 45, from Australia

Police are gathering information about possible victims, such as descriptions of appearance, clothing, photos, fingerprints, medical and dental records and DNA samples.

These details will then be matched to the evidence gathered in the post-mortem examination.

Out of the 47 people on the island when the eruption happened, 24 were from Australia, nine from the US, five from New Zealand, four from Germany, two from China, two from the UK, and one from Malaysia.

media caption"Toxic gases and ash": The BBC's Shaimaa Khalil flies around White Island

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