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Three killed as volcano erupts

  • Story Highlights
  • NEW NATO ships rescue two survivors, spot three bodies after volcano erupts
  • NEW Three Yemeni military personnel still missing after Red Sea explosion
  • Lava, ash sent hundreds of feet into air by eruption, which began Sunday
  • Northern side of island described as "just nothing but red molten lava"
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(CNN) -- NATO ships rescued two survivors and spotted three bodies off the coast of a small Red Sea island Monday morning, following a spectacular volcanic eruption the night before, a NATO commander said.

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Lava flows and clouds of smoke and ash reach skyward after a volcano eruption on the island of Jazirt Atta-Ir.

The Yemeni Coast Guard rescued 21 of the 29 Yemeni military personnel who were on the island when the volcano erupted, but they requested help from a nearby six-ship NATO task force en route to the Suez Canal, according to Ken Allan of the Canadian Navy's HMCS Toronto.

The Canadian ship located the first survivor about five miles off the coast of the volcanic island, Allan told CNN's American Morning.

"We managed to pluck him out of the water, after he'd been in there for quite a long time and moments later, my ship, the HMCS Toronto, picked up another survivor, currently down in sick bay receiving medical care from our doctor aboard," Allan said.

Allan said the ships, still in the area searching Monday afternoon, also recovered two men who did not survive.

Four Yemeni military personnel are still missing, he said, adding that they were on Jazirt Atta-Ir island when the volcano erupted.

The ships were only 26 nautical miles away when the eruption took place. "It was extremely, extremely brilliant, quite bright off the bow," said Allan.

"Of course the closer we got to the area, the brighter it got. We could actually see the lava spouting out. It was quite brilliant, huge smoke, ash going ... up into the sky."

The ships -- part of a six-ship NATO task force en route to the Suez Canal -- were only 26 nautical miles away when the eruption took place.

The island of Jazirt Atta-Ir is located about 85 miles (140 km) from Yemen in the Red Sea.

The flotilla is known as NATO's Standing NATO Maritime Group 1 (SNMG1), which its Web site describes as "a multinational seagoing Force, on task continuously giving NATO the ability to respond quickly and with flexibility to promote NATO's interests anywhere in the world."

Allan said the eruptions continued on Monday.

"There's still lava pouring off the island," he said. "The northern side seems to be completely devastated."

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"The southern side seems to be OK, but the northern side is just nothing but red molten lava."

The island is located near a major shipping lane, but had not slowed traffic, Allan said. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

Copyright 2007 CNN. All rights reserved.This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Associated Press contributed to this report.

All About Volcanic Eruptions

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