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Skin donations begin for NZ volcano victims

Video Credit: Reuters Studio - Duration: 01:48s - Published
Skin donations begin for NZ volcano victims

Skin donations begin for NZ volcano victims

Australia donates more than 20 square feet of skin to help New Zealand volcano victims with life-threatening burns.

Ryan Brooks reports.

Some twenty square feet of skin was sent to New Zealand from Australia on Wednesday (December 11).

It's among donations to save victims severely burned by a volcanic eruption this week.

However, its only a fraction of New Zealand's ordered - nearly 1300 (thirteen hundred) square feet of skin.

In the wake of Monday's deadly event, surgeons have been working around the clock to treat survivors at hospitals around the country.

The head of one Australian tissue bank explained why the skin is so critical.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) HEAD OF THE DONOR TISSUE BANK OF VICTORIA AT THE VICTORIAN INSTITUTE OF FORENSIC MEDICINE, STEFAN PONIATOWSKI, SAYING: "So skin is used in life-saving surgery.

So skin is predominantly used in patients who have the most life-threatening burns.

Usually if they have more then 50 per cent burn over their body there isn't enough of their own skin to transplant onto the burn wounds.

So in that case there is no alternative." The death toll has been rising through the week, and more than 20 people are in intensive care.

Another eight are presumed dead on the island.

The amount of skin needed to save victims equates to about 60 donors.

However, the New Zealand Herald reports that only five to 10 people donate skin each year in the country.

Jorge Villapalos, a lead surgeon for plastics and grafting in London, says when the donations do arrive, surgeons will be tested to the limits of their expertises.

(SOUNDBITE) (English) LEAD SURGEON IN PLASTICS AND SKIN GRAFT TEAM OF THE BURNS UNIT AT CHELSEA AND WESTMINSTER HOSPITAL, JORGE VILLAPALOS, SAYING: "What we need to analyse here is that these are exceptional circumstances by any stretch of the imagination and to illustrate this I would say that our colleagues in New Zealand have had maybe the work of a whole year thrown at them in a single day." On Thursday (December 12) Maori prayers were offered for victims of the tragedy.

Authorities confirmed they plan to recover victims' bodies from White Island Friday morning.

Previous efforts have been deemed unsafe as experts say there's a 50 to 60 percent chance of another eruption.




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