Buttle family supports the rahui on Whakaari-White Island

updated By Te Ao - Māori News

The Buttle family, who have owned Whakaari for over 80 years, has asked that the rāhui placed on the motu be respected.

Te Ao understands that a rāhui has been placed on Whakaari which took place at the mouth of Ohinemataora River at 4am this morning.

Speaking from Whakatāne, family spokesperson Peter Buttle says:

“We are all shocked by what has occurred on Whakaari yesterday and our thoughts are with everyone affected by this tragedy.

“We wish to thank everyone involved in the rescue effort, including the first responders, medical personnel and the locals who helped evacuate people from the island.

"Their efforts have been both courageous and extraordinary.”

Whakatāne mayor said that their community would be opening their doors to those affected by yesterday's eruption at Whakaari, including Te Mānuka Tūtahi at Mataatua Marae.

Police say there is no sign of life on the island following flyovers overnight.

There are up to 8 people still unaccounted for. Five people, who were rescued from the island yesterday, were confirmed dead.

Eighteen people in total were rescued from the island, many suffered from severe burns.

It is understood foreign tourists who were onboard the visiting cruise ship, the Ovation of the Seas, are part of those still missing.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had tweeted last night that 24 Australian nationals were involved in the tragedy and their status is currently unconfirmed.

This morning, Morrison also sent his support to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

A NZDF ship is currently nearby the island and will be deploying drones to further observe the current status of the island.

“That we now have had a tragic event with devastating consequences leaves us absolutely heartbroken. Our thoughts are with the families of those affected, as well as the wider Whakatāne community,” Buttle concludes.