Rescuers have told how they tried to save dying tourists covered in ash after the New Zealand volcano erupted in scenes compared to the 'Chernobyl' television drama.
One of those rescued from White Island in the wake of the eruption died in hospital yesterday, bringing the death toll to six, with a further eight missing presumed dead.
Two British women are among the 30 in hospital, with medics warning that many have suffered burns to more than 30pc of their bodies and are still in critical conditions.
Police believed that there were 47 people on the island when tragedy stuck and alongside the two Britons there were 24 visitors from Australia, nine from the US, five from New Zealand, four from Germany, two from China and one person from Malaysia.
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The initial five dead were understood to include Hayden Marshall-Inman, an experienced guide for White Island Tours, alongside the Malaysian and three from Australia.
Questions have been raised as to why visitors were allowed on the island after seismic monitoring experts raised the volcano's alert level last month.
"These questions must be answered," Jacinda Ardern, the country's prime minister, said in parliament as police announced an investigation.
Local tourism authorities market White Island, or Whakaari in the Maori language, as "the world's most accessible active marine volcano" and roughly 10,000 people visit every year.
Mark Law, who runs a company that runs tours to the island but had not been flying that day, said that he scrambled two of his helicopters after they saw the smoke.
Mr Law told the 'Guardian': "We both landed in the centre of the island where we felt it was OK. It was ashing but we could deal with it. We went to assess everyone. We were moving around tending to people who were in real distress. We found people dead, dying and alive but in various states of unconsciousness."
The former soldier said: "The burns were horrific. A lot of the people could not talk. It was pretty quiet.
"They were covered in ash and dust. We were picking them up and skin was coming off in our hands."