Military experts on New Zealand's White Island recovered six more victims' bodies following a deadly volcanic eruption, bringing the number of confirmed dead to 14.
Two other people remain missing and are presumed to be killed, but Thursday's recovery mission – an arduous affair for military experts seeking the threat of another eruption – did not find them.
The effort began on Friday morning local time after a blessing was held at sea with representatives of the victims' families, a statement by New Zealand Deputy Police Commissioner John Tims.
The recovered bodies were flown to a ship near the island, which contained scientists, police and other military personnel involved in the mission.
At least one body is in the surrounding waters, said Police Commissioner Mike Bush, and police divers continued their search in the afternoon. The air teams will also try to locate the victims, who are believed to be a tour guide and the captain of a boat that took tourists to the island.
"We are making every effort to locate and recover the two dead," Bush said in a statement.
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Police said another operation would be needed later to recover other bodies.
The mission called eight specialists to recover the bodies of eight victims. Those who believe the deaths are in addition to the official death toll from the eruption, that was at eight before the mission.
The operation took longer than expected due to heavy protective equipment worn by the team, a police statement issued Friday at 9:15 am local time says.
Earlier statements noted the complexity of the mission.
"A lot needs to work out tomorrow for this to work," a New Zealand police statement reads.
"There is no zero risk option with respect to the plan, but we consider it carefully. We don't expect the risk to change tonight or tomorrow, but we plan it."
Earlier this week, the volcano's continued outburst delayed authorities' plans to recover the bodies. Scientists believe another eruption is possible.
Volcanologist Nico Fournier previously warned that the volcano remains "highly volatile".
Police believe 47 visitors were on the island at the time of the eruption, 24 of them Australians, nine Americans, five New Zealanders and others from Germany, the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Many were passengers aboard Royal Caribbean's cruise ship, Ovation of the Seas.
There are several factors that affect the mission, including rain in the weather, which seems to be a factor in accelerating planned recovery efforts.
Rain mixed with the island's heavy volcanic ash can envelop the bodies in a cement-like substance. Earlier, police had said a methodical approach was needed to preserve evidence and help identify victims.
"My concerns remain the weather, the direction of the wind, the state of the sea, because they all bring risks and increase complexity," said Deputy Police Commissioner Mike Clement.
Two teenage brothers with ties to the Chicago area are among the victims of the eruption, various media reported.
According Chicago TribuneBerend Hollander, 16, and Matthew Hollander, 13, died after being taken to a hospital.
Contribution: Adrianna Rodriguez and Ryan W. Miller, USA TODAY; The Associated Press