Tuesday, October 02, 2007

HMCS Toronto To The Rescue

A Canadian navy ship has rescued a Yemeni soldier and recovered the bodies of two others following a volcanic eruption on a small island in the Red Sea. A total of four survivors were pulled from the water. HMCS Toronto was part of a NATO fleet sailing toward the Suez Canal when the Yemeni government asked them to assist in the search for eight soldiers believed at sea after the volcano. Navy spokesman Ken Allen, aboard HMCS Toronto, told The Canadian Press the survivors were found this morning as the ships were leaving the area after the Yemeni coast guard no longer required their services. Allen said that HMCS Toronto rescued one of the eight missing Yemeni soldiers and recovered the bodies of two others. Three more survivors were pulled from the water by Dutch and American ships.
HMCS Toronto (FFH 333)
Twenty nine soldiers were based at the island, located about 140 kilometres off the Yemeni coast, that is used for naval control and observation because large cargo ships pass nearby. The eruption collapsed part of the island and covered the rest with lava, forcing authorities to evacuate the base, the Yemeni news agency SABA reported. Lava and ash, which shot hundreds of feet into the air in the initial eruption, continued to spew from the volcano Monday, the Yemeni Defense Ministry said. The six-ship NATO fleet was asked by Yemen to assist in the search and found two survivors, as well as the four bodies, said Cmdr. Stuart Moors of the Canadian navy who was aboard the USS Bainbridge, in an interview with The Associated Press. The Yemeni coast guard and navy had earlier evacuated 21 personnel from island base, leaving the eight missing, Moors said. Yemeni officials would not confirm how many of its personnel were originally on the island.
Lava flows and clouds of smoke and ash reach skyward after a volcano eruption on a Red Sea island, 130 km off the coast of Yemen, in this photo taken from the deck of the Canadian frigate HMCS Toronto.
It was not clear whether the victims were killed by the eruption or by drowning. “We’re still searching” for the other two missing Yemenis, Moors said from the Bainbridge, which is based in Norfolk, Va., and is the flagship of the NATO fleet. “As soon as we found these people, we offered to remain and assist. We have continued our search through the day and we’re remaining in touch with Yemen authorities,” he said. The two rescued men were turned over to the Yemeni coast guard, Moors said. One of the survivors who was found by the Bainbridge reported being in the water for more than 12 hours, and “he was in quite good shape, considering the hardship." He had no information on the other survivor, who was picked up by the HMCS Toronto. Canadian navy spokesman Ken Allen, who was aboard the Toronto, said the eruption was “catastrophic.’’ On Sunday evening, he reported that the entire island “is aglow with lava and magma as it pours down into the sea.’’ “The lava is spewing hundreds of feet into the air, with the volcanic ash also (rising) a thousand feet in the air,” he said in an e-mail from the ship.Sailors on Monday could hear “what sounded like popping noise from the lava going up in the air, and you could see big steam plumes and smoke,” Moors said. Jabal al-Tair — meaning “Bird Mountain” — is one of a number of volcanos 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. In the past two weeks, the area around the island had seen light earthquakes between magnitude 2 to 3.6, with three larger ones Sunday 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.

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