Last updated: October 01, 2007, 14:47
Sanaa: At least eight Yemeni soldiers were killed in a volcanic eruption on an island off the the country's Red Sea Coast, a government official said on Monday.
The eruption occurred on Jazirt Mount Al Tair, an island about 140 km from Yemen.
A Defence Ministry official said the western part of the island had "collapsed" following the eruption. He said naval ships were searching the surrounding waters for nine missing Yemeni soldiers who were stationed on the island.
Yemen's Oil Minister Khaled Mahfoudh Bahah said several earthquakes felt on Sunday had triggered the eruption.
"Three earthquakes struck the island around 1127 GMT on Sunday, and were ranging between 4.3 and 4 on the Richter scale," Jamal Al Shalaan, head of the Yemeni Earthquake Centre told state news agency Saba.
President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who flew to nearby Hudaidah port late on Sunday to observe the situation, told the Yemeni navy to send rescue teams, Saba reported.
A Canadian frigate, HMCS Toronto, was conducting a search and rescue operation for the missing people at the request of the Yemen coast guard.
Navy spokesman Ken Allen told the Canadian Press news agency that lava was spewing hundreds of yards into the air, with volcanic ash also rising over 300 metres.
A Yemeni geologist said the volcano had previously erupted in the 19th and 18th centuries, and is regarded as one of the Red Sea's more recent volcanic islands, Saba said.