( Latimes ) -A volcano has erupted on a tiny island off the coast of Yemen, spewing lava and ash hundreds of feet into the air, a Canadian naval vessel near the island in the Red Sea reported today. The Yemeni government asked NATO to assist in searching for survivors.
Ken Allan, a Navy spokesman, said a NATO fleet just outside the territorial waters of the island Jazirt Atta-Ir reported seeing a "catastrophic volcanic eruption" at 7 p.m. local time. The 2-mile-long island is about 70 miles off the coast of Yemen.
"At this time, the entire island is aglow with lava and magma as it pours down into the sea. We do not have confirmation of how many people were on this island at the time of the eruption," Allan said in an e-mail.
"The lava is spewing hundreds of feet into the air, with the volcanic ash also (rising) a thousand feet in the air," Allan said.
The Canadian Armed Forces said they are trying to locate nine people believed to be at sea after the Yemen coast guard requested help.
The NATO fleet was sailing toward the Suez Canal when it spotted the eruption. The government of Yemen asked NATO to assist in the search for survivors and the closet ship, the HMCS Toronto, is heading toward the island.
Yemen is a poor tribal Sunni Muslim country at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula.