Red Sea volcano still spewing lava and ash

A volcano on a Yemeni island in the Red Sea was spewing a deadly mix of lava and ash for the third straight day on Tuesday, after erupting for the first time since the 19th century.

Yemeni authorities said three soldiers had been killed during the eruption on the island of Jabal al-Tair, home to a garrison of 50 soldiers, and that five others were missing.

The garrison had been evacuated after the eruption of the 1 200m-high volcano, which began on Sunday at noon local time.

The bodies of the three soldiers were recovered from the sea, while a fourth was found alive, military official Abdel Bari Shamsan was quoted as saying by the official Saba news agency.

Shamsan was speaking in the port city of Hodeida, about 150km from the island.

An initial toll on Monday put the dead at six.

A Yemeni coast-guard official said the volcano remained active on Tuesday, releasing lava, ash and black smoke high into the air.

A team of vulcanologists dispatched to the area reported that the eruption produced 1km-long lava flows and blackened the water within a 9,7km radius of the island.

The eruption sparked a sea search by Nato warships passing through the area on their way to the Suez Canal, after a request from the Yemeni coast guard.

At first light on Tuesday, Nato and Yemeni naval vessels restarted their search for the missing soldiers.

A coast-guard official said that maritime movement was not hampered by the eruption, as major shipping routes in the area were located at least 13km from the island.

There had been considerable seismic activity around the island ahead of the eruption, the Yemeni Defence Ministry said on its website. It said an earthquake measuring 7,3 on the Richter scale had been recorded on Friday.

The island has been garrisoned by the Yemeni authorities since the 1990s when a long-standing territorial dispute with Eritrea over the ownership of a series of islands in the Red Sea erupted into armed clashes.

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague eventually found in Yemen’s favour and awarded it sovereignty over the islands.

Yemen lies on the Arabian Peninsula and is one of the world’s most impoverished states.—Sapa-AFP

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