The friends of three Australian victims of the deadly Whakaari volcano eruption have confirmed their deaths.
In a statement issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on Wednesday night, the friends of Jason Griffiths, Karla Mathews and Richard Elzer said: "We are incredibly saddened to have lost three of our closest friends."
The number of Australians confirmed dead in the New Zealand disaster is now seven.
The six friends said they had embarked on a cruise earlier in December "as a group of nine close friends who were looking forward to a wonderful holiday together".
They said they were devastated to learn on December 9 that three of their group were visiting White Island - otherwise known as Whakaari - at the time of the eruption.
"Some time later, we discovered that two of our friends, Richard Elzer and Karla Mathews, were still on the island. We have been advised that there are no signs of life on the island," the statement said.
We then located our third friend, Jason Griffiths, in a hospital in the early hours of the next morning.
"From that moment until the moment of his passing, Jason was surrounded by friends and family members."