Canadian ship rescues Yemeni soldier after Red Sea volcano erupts

A Canadian navy vessel plucked one Yemeni soldier from the Red Sea after a volcanic eruption, the ship's commander said Monday, and also retrieved the bodies of two others.

Navy recovers bodies of 2 others lost at sea

A Canadian navy vessel pluckeda Yemeni soldier from the Red Sea after a volcanic eruptionon a nearby island forced him and others tofleeinto the waves, the ship'ssecond-in-commandsaid Monday.

The crew of HMCS Toronto and members of Yemen's Coast Guard salute as the remains of a Yemeni soldier are transferred from the Canadian vessel to a waiting Yemeni Coast Guard ship. ((MCpl Kevin Paul, Canadian Forces))
HMCS Toronto, which received a call from the Yemeni government to assist in a search-and-rescue operation late Sunday night, sent four smaller vessels to comb the seas near the island of Jabal al-Tair after the volcano erupted, spewing ash and lava into the air.

There are conflicting reports of the number of fatalities. Reuters news agencyquoted a Yemeni government official as sayingeight Yemeni soldiersare "regarded as dead."HMCS Toronto retrieved the bodies of two of them at sea.

"I hesitate to say how many [soldiers] are actually missing," Lt.-Cmdr. Angus Topshee, the executive officer aboard HMCS Toronto, told CBC News onMonday. "However, what I can say is we have recovered one survivor on board Toronto, and unfortunately pulled two dead bodies from the water as well."

The Yemeni soldier pulled out by the Canadians told crew members that he had been swimming for 20 hours. Topshee said the ship found him nearly 10 kilometres from the island's shore.

"It appears that they fled into the water from the lava as the volcano erupted quite suddenly," Topshee said of the soldiers who were stationed on the island.

The island, which isthree kilometres wide, is roughly 130 kilometres from Yemen's coast. Witnesses said the island was engulfed in fire and that glowing lava flowed out into the sea.

A total of four survivors have been found so far by the fleet of NATO ships contacted by the Yemeni government. The three others were rescued by Dutch and American vessels.

Lava flows and clouds of smoke and ash reach skyward after a volcano erupted on the island of Jabal al-Tair on Sunday. This photo was taken from the deck of the Canadian frigate HMCS Toronto. ((Canadian Forces Combat Camera/Master Cpl. Kevin Paul/Canadian Press))

By Monday morning, smoke clouds and heat haze could still be seen from the island, but the overnight drama seemed to have calmed down, Topshee said.

"I was in one of the small boats close to shore last night and it was very dramatic as the lava was coming down into the water from both sides," he said.

Topshee said the Canadians were sending out smaller boats on Monday to continue in the search alongside four NATO ships and a helicopter.

Rescue operations could prove challenging throughout the day, he added, as outside temperatures reached the high 30s, raising the risk of heat strokeforthe rescuers as well as those who may still be lost at sea.

Government officials in Yemen said several earthquakes on Sunday had triggered the eruption. The three quakes with magnitudes between 4 and 4.3 had struck the island at about 7 p.m. local time, Yemen state news agency Saba reported, citing Yemeni Earthquake Centre.

On Sunday, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh flew to nearby Hudaidah port and ordered the navy to send rescue teams, Saba reported.