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White Island eruption: First victim arrives in Melbourne for treatment as death toll climbs

3AW Breakfast

The first victim of the volcano eruption in New Zealand have arrived in Melbourne for treatment at The Alfred Hospital.

The patient arrived at Essendon Airport just before 8am for treatment at the Melbourne hospital’s highly regarded burns unit.

The plane has now returned to New Zealand to bring other survivors home.

Head of the Victorian Adult Burns Unit at The Alfred Hospital, Associate Professor Heather Cleland, said the patients treated here will likely face lengthy hospital stays.

“Once a person loses more than about 40 to 50 per cent of their skin it’s very difficult to get complete healing because we don’t have enough undamaged skin to take skin grafts from and use to heal the damaged areas, so it does take a long time and multiple surgeries,” she said.

“Often these patients, in addition to having lost a lot of skin, are very unwell with a lot of other systemic general problems going on.”

New Zealand’s White Island volcano erupted on Monday afternoon, while tour groups were on the island.

Ms Cleland praised the actions of workers at the small hospital near the island, who used plastic food wrap to cover the burns when resources were stretched thin.

“It’s a reasonable very short term dressing solution which does keep the air out of the burn,” she said.

“It will help with pain management and it also keeps the air and the bugs and things out of it.

“As a temporary measure we’re very happy with the use of glad wrap.”

The official death toll from the disaster climbed to eight overnight, after two victims died in hospital.

Seven of those confirmed dead are Australians.

More than two dozen injured people remain in hospital, and nine are still missing.

Police are finalising plans to retrieve bodies from the island tomorrow morning, despite the rise of another volcanic eruption.

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Image: Marty Melville


3AW Breakfast