New Zealand police defended delays in recovering bodies from the White Island volcano today, saying it would be madness to rush into a landing on the still-smouldering disaster zone.

Police Minister Stuart Nash said seismologists had predicted there was a 50 per cent chance of another eruption on the island, which sits semi-submerged 50 kilometres (30 miles) out to sea. He added, there were also poisonous gases pouring from the volcanic vent and the eruption had blanketed the island in a thick layer of acidic ash.

Mr Nash said, he understood the frustration of family members who wanted their loved ones' remains returned but said recovery teams had no choice but to wait. Monday's volcanic explosion at the popular tourist attraction off the North Island coast resulted in six deaths and authorities believe the remains of eight others listed as missing are still on the island.

A total of 47 day-trippers were on the island when the blast occurred, and many survivors suffered serious burns. Among those caught on the island during the sudden blast were tourists from Australia, the United States, Britain, China, Germany and Malaysia, as well as local tour guides.

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