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A Canadian navy ship rescued a Yemeni soldier and recovered the bodies of two others Monday following a volcanic eruption on a small island in the Red Sea.

HMCS Toronto was sailing as part of a NATO fleet when the Yemeni government asked them to assist in the search for eight soldiers believed at sea after the volcano hit the Jabal al-Tair island.

After hours of searching without success, the Yemen coast guard no longer required the services of the six NATO ships, Canadian Navy spokesman Ken Allen, aboard HMCS Toronto, told The Canadian Press by telephone.

"As we were moving away from the island about five nautical miles north, the Dutch ship found a survivor in the water."

Mr. Allen said that after the first survivor was rescued, all six NATO ships began "another vigorous search in the water in that area."

"About an hour and a half ago (HMCS Toronto) pulled a survivor out of the water ... he is now in our ship receiving medical attention," Mr. Allen said at about 4:30 a.m. EDT.

In all, four survivors were found by the NATO ships.

The tiny island, about three kilometres wide, is about 140 kilometres off the Yemeni coast.

It lacks a settled population but includes military installations used for naval control and observation because large cargo ships pass nearby.

Twenty-nine Yemeni soldiers were based on the island, Mr. Allen said.

Yemeni news agency SABA reported that local ships had evacuated all personnel and were searching for eight missing soldiers.

Mr. Allen said the NATO fleet saw "a "catastrophic volcanic eruption" on the island at about 7 p.m. local time Sunday.

"At this time, the entire island is aglow with lava and magma as it pours down into the sea," Allan said in an e-mail Sunday evening.

"The lava is spewing hundreds of feet into the air, with the volcanic ash also (rising) a 300 metres in the air," Mr. Allen said.

HMCS Toronto later recovered the bodies of two other soldiers.

"So we have now two deceased and one survivor in our ship," Mr. Allen said.

Three more soldiers were rescued by Dutch and U.S. ships bringing the total number of survivors to four.

There were still two soldiers missing.

Jabal al-Tair - meaning "Bird Mountain" - is one of a number of volcanoes at the southern end of the Red Sea in the narrows between Yemen and Sudan. The island last saw an explosive eruption in 1883, according to the Washington-based Smithsonian Institute's Global Volcanism Program.

Over the past two weeks, the area around the island had seen light earthquakes between magnitude 2-3.6, with three larger ones Sunday afternoon reaching magnitude 4.3, the Yemeni Ministry of Oil and Mineral Resources said, according to SABA.

Fishermen and other boats had been warned from approaching the area, it said.

Yemen is a poor tribal Sunni Muslim country at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula.

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