Distraught Coffs family on their way to New Zealand
FAMILY members of the Coffs Harbour man critically injured in the White Island volcanic eruption are on their way to Auckland to be by his side.
Jason David Griffiths, 33, was visiting the island with fellow Coffs Harbour locals Richard Aaron Elser, 32, and Karla Michelle Matthews, 32, who are still listed as missing.
Jason's aunt Lisa Smith says the family hold grave concerns for his welfare.
She understands he underwent surgery yesterday and has been flown to Auckland.
Most of the survivors of Monday's explosion have suffered severe burns both internally and externally.
Jason's mother Karen Griffiths and 80-year-old grandmother Alwyn Bosler flew out to Auckland at around 7.30am today (Wednesday).
Jason was employed at Toormina Woolworths and Lisa says the company jumped into action paying for emergency passports, flights and accommodation in New Zealand.
"They will be met in Auckland and given New Zealand money and a phone when they arrive," Lisa explained.
Cowper MP Patrick Conaghan was in New Zealand at the time on parliamentary business when the emergency unfolded.
He has offered his support to the local families.
"I was in New Zealand with a Parliamentary Joint Committee when the volcano tragedy occurred. My thoughts and prayers go out to all families affected by this event," Mr Conaghan said.
"I have been communicating with the Department of Foreign Affairs to ensure that our residents affected have every assistance made available to them at this terrible time. The consular officials should be commended for all the support they have provided so far."
The volcano erupted in two massive explosions on Monday. It is one of New Zealand's most active, and questions are emerging as to why tourists were allowed to go there.
There were 47 people on the island at the time including 24 Australians.
Thirty survivors, including Jason, are still in hospital with 25 of them in a critical condition. Three people have been discharged.
The volcano is located in the Bay of Plenty, about 48km from the east coast of New Zealand's North Island. GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazard information site, says White Island has been classified as New Zealand's most active volcano since 1976, when it began 24 years of almost continuous eruption.
New Zealand police will meet with scientists today to asses whether it's safe to access White Island.
Authorities have warned that victim identification will be a complex matter due to the severe nature of their injuries.
The New Zealand branch of the Red Cross has sent volunteers to the scene to provide emotional support to those affected by the tragedy.