The official death toll of the White Island volcanic eruption last week has officially climbed to 16, including 10 Australians, as the Ovation of the Seas returns to Sydney.
Passengers onboard the Royal Caribbean cruise have expressed their disapproval with the way the cruise line handled the tragic event, with one father slamming the line’s lack of information and mental health support.
The man, who did not want to be named, told News.com.au that he all he was given was a piece of paper with “generic mental health advice” even though his son had made friends with two of the victims.
“They try and offer you mental health… support on the last night when you’re about to get off,” he said.
“The captain didn’t even tell us what was happening. We had to watch the news. It was a prison ship in the end, you weren’t allowed to know anything.”
The man said his son was “not ok”.
“He was in the medical centre last night at 2am, it was terrible,” he said.
A Royal Caribbean spokesperson told Travel Weekly that as the ship returned today, the line’s thoughts remain with those affected and “we will continue to provide ongoing support and services to them and their families during this difficult time”.
“We would like to thank all the first responders and medical personnel,” the spokesperson said.
“We also thank the Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand and their teams, the local authorities and everyone who has reached out to help with their kind words of support.
“We thank our guests for their understanding in the days following this tragic event.”
The families of several victims have provided statements through the department of foreign affairs and trade expressing their heartbreak and asking for privacy.
“Anthony and Kristine, loving parents to Jesse and Winona, were a wonderful couple and devoted to both their immediate and extended families. They will be greatly missed by all who knew them,” said the Langford family.
“Winona is currently unaccounted for and Jesse is recovering in hospital, receiving excellent care.
“At this difficult time, we ask that the media respect our family’s privacy. We will not be making further comment.”
The Mathews family confirmed their sister Karla had been positively identified as one of the six people recovered from the disaster site.
“Our family is absolutely heartbroken and our big sister will be incredibly missed,” the Mathews family said.
“We have an enormous sense of relief that she has finally been found and we patiently wait with the Elzer family for news of Karla’s partner Rick so we are able to bring them home together.
“We would like to take this moment to express our deep gratitude to both the New Zealand and Australian governments for everything they have done for our family this past week. We would like to especially thank the New Zealand Police for their unwavering efforts towards reuniting all families with their lost loved ones.
“We respectfully decline further requests for information and ask that our privacy is respected as we grieve the loss of our beautiful sister.”
Meanwhile, the minister for foreign affairs, Marise Payne, has confirmed she will be visiting New Zealand from today until 18 December to offer Australia’s condolences to the government and people of New Zealand.
“The tragic event has affected 47 people, including 24 Australian citizens, as well as four people who called Australia home. Our hearts go out to all of the families and loved ones of those affected,” Payne said.
“Twelve Australian citizens and one permanent resident have been medically evacuated back to Australia.
“Australian Federal Police, and NSW and Queensland Police are continuing their work assisting New Zealand authorities to formally identify those people tragically killed in the eruption as quickly as possible.”
Featured image: Karla Mathews and Rick Elzer.