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Mon 1 Oct 2007 11:33 AM

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Yemen volcano erupts - nine missing

People lost at sea as eruption on coastal island spewed lava and ash hundreds of yards into the air.

A volcano erupted on a small island off the coast of Yemen, spewing lava and ash hundreds of yards into the air on Sunday evening and at least 9 people are missing at sea, Canadian naval officials and Yemen's state news agency said.

The eruption occurred on Jazirt Mount al-Tair, an island about 80 miles from Yemen.

Several earthquakes were felt on the island on Sunday, triggering the eruption, said Khaled Mahfoudh Bahah, Yemen Oil Minister, reported Reuters.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh instructed Yemen's navy to dispatch rescue teams to the island in order to search for eight missing people, state news agency Saba said.

Canadian frigate HMCS Toronto was also conducting a search and rescue operation at the request of the Yemen coast guard.

The NATO fleet was sailing north towards the Suez Canal at the time of the eruption, Canada's navy said in a statement.

It also said it was trying to locate 9 people believed to be at sea in the area.

Navy spokesman Ken Allen told Canadian Press lava was spewing hundreds of yards into the air, with volcanic ash also rising 275 metres.

Allen said in an email from Toronto that the entire 3 kilometre island was aglow with lava and magma as it poured into the sea.

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