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Last Updated: Monday, 1 October 2007, 22:02 GMT 23:02 UK
Volcano erupts on Red Sea island
Volcano eruption on Jazirat al-Tair, 30/9
Lava spewed hundreds of metres into the air, witnesses said

A search for survivors is under way after a volcano erupted on a Yemeni island in the Red Sea, killing at least four people.

The western part of the tiny al-Tair island, used as a military base, collapsed following the eruption, the defence ministry said.

Four bodies were recovered from the sea and two soldiers are missing.

Yemeni coastguards requested the help of nearby Nato ships in the search and rescue operation.

Commander Stuart Moors, on board the USS Bainbridge, told the BBC that two survivors were rescued and four bodies pulled out of the sea during the operation.

One survivor had been in the water for more than 12 hours.

The USS Bainbridge and the Canadian navy frigate HMCS Toronto were sailing towards the Suez Canal when they received the request for help.

The search is still ongoing for two missing soldiers, Commander Moors said.

He added that 21 Yemeni soldiers were earlier evacuated by the Yemeni coast guard and navy.

Other reports, quoting soldiers and government officials, suggested the death toll could be higher.

'Aglow with lava'

On Sunday evening, Canadian navy spokesman Ken Allen told reporters in an e-mail that the entire island was "aglow with lava and magma as it pours down into the sea".

Regional plates

"The lava is spewing hundreds of feet into the air, with the volcanic ash also 1,000 feet in the air."

Yemen's President Ali Abdullah Saleh flew to nearby al-Hudayda port on Sunday to observe the situation.

He ordered Yemen's navy to send rescue teams to the area.

The island, some 140km (80 miles) off the Yemen coast, is about 3km long and has been used as a military base since 1996.

Geologists say al-Tair, which lies on a major fault line, last saw a volcanic eruption in the late 19th Century.

Yemeni officials are linking the eruption to several small earthquakes which they say hit the island on Sunday morning.

Country profile: Yemen
14 Jul 07 |  Country profiles

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