Relatives injured in the White Island/Whakaari eruption are split between different hospitals, leaving their loved ones with incredibly difficult choices, Tauranga's mayor says.
Mayor Tenby Powell spent yesterday on the bridge of Ovation of the Seas in the Port of Tauranga.
He was part of a local operations team working with the cruise ship's captain and crew to co-ordinate "wraparound support" for the families of the 38 people from the ship who were on or near the island during Monday's eruption.
There were 47 people in total on or near the island. Six have been confirmed dead and eight are missing and presumed dead. Thirty are in hospital, with 24 in regional burns units and the other six to be transferred as soon as possible. Three have been discharged.
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Powell said the group on Tuesday was working to map out which hospitals each injured person was in, and get that information to loved ones on the ship.
"There are certain family members who were split between different hospitals, which created real challenges.
"People had to make a decision as to where they would go and who they would be with, which is a dreadful bloody decision to make."
He understood the parents of twins, aged about 6, were injured in the eruption but each parent had been taken to a different hospital.
The twins and their sibling, a boy aged around 12, were being cared for by their grandmother, who Powell said was "very distraught" and struggling with the decision about where to go next.
He said, given the nature of their injuries, first responders and medical teams may have had no way of knowing the relationships between the injured people as they were brought off the island, assessed and sent to hospitals.
Powell was not sure how many people on the ship had relatives who were on White Island.
He said Tourism Bay of Plenty chief executive Kristen Dunne was in Whakatāne today, continuing the work to support the families.
A Royal Caribbean spokeswoman said this morning the company would not say how many passengers and crew stayed behind when the ship left Tauranga this morning.
She said the people on the ship were "deeply appreciative" of the support they were provided during their two-night stay.
"It has been awesome to see the overwhelming support by the local government and the community in Tauranga."
On Tuesday Ngāi Te Rangi offered Whareroa Marae in Mount Maunganui for temporary accommodation for people caught up in the aftermath of the eruption, but so far it has not been needed.
Charlie Tawhiao, chairman of the iwi's settlement trust, said the marae offer was always intended as a last resort option so he was not expecting it to be needed.
He said the iwi learned about dealing with mass trauma in a travelling group when its bus crashed last year.
Nineteen people of Tauranga Moana iwi - many of them kaumātua and kuia - were injured when their bus crashed into a ditch in Manawatū on the way back from a protest at Parliament.
The injured were split between two hospitals. Most were discharged that night and the group regathered at a local marae the next day.
From that experience, Tawhiao said he learned those affected "need to be together so they can comfort each other."
"They also need to feel safe."
Ngāi Te Rangi organised a vigil at the Port of Tauranga yesterday afternoon, hosting a karakia for the passengers and crew of Ovation of the Seas - a Māori blessing to settle the spirit before passengers leave.
Powell also attended, making a speech to send Tauranga's love to those affected.