Four days after the devastating volcanic eruption, New Zealand's military team could recover six bodies, but two remain unaccounted for.

Members of a rescue crew are seen at the White Island volcano, also known by its Maori name Whakaari, in New Zealand on December 13, 2019.
Members of a rescue crew are seen at the White Island volcano, also known by its Maori name Whakaari, in New Zealand on December 13, 2019. (Reuters)

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said on Friday New Zealand will return to White Island "as soon as possible" to retrieve two bodies still to be recovered after a deadly volcano eruption.

A New Zealand military team earlier recovered six bodies on Friday from the volcanic island that fatally erupted earlier this week in a high risk operation watched by dozens of grieving family members waiting on the mainland.

Scientists have warned that gases on the island are so toxic and corrosive that a single inhalation could be fatal.

Equipment constraints

Payne said the military team was unable to retrieve the other two because of equipment constraints, but the team will return as soon as they can.

"Due to the limitations of equipment and the need to complete the operation within a particular period of time," Payne said about why two bodies remain on the island.

"The New Zealand authorities have indicated they will return as soon as it is possible to do so."

New Zealand's GeoNet seismic monitoring agency on Thursday lowered White Island's volcanic alert level to 2, noting there has been no further eruption since Monday, when the level had briefly been raised to 4. 

Its alert level since late Monday had been 3 on a scale where 5 signifies a major eruption.

A further eruption in the next day still remains a possibility, the agency said, noting volcanic tremors are rising and steam and mud were being vented regularly.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies