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New Zealand evacuates remote island as volcano erupts

Written by: Staff

WELLINGTON, Mar 17: A New Zealand conservation worker was unaccounted for and five others were being evacuated after a volcanic eruption on a remote Pacific island today.

A helicopter was being sent to Raoul Island in the Kermadec Islands group after an eruption caused a steam and ash plume and threw out mud from a lake on the island, the Department of Conservation said.

Six department staff work on the island, situated about 1,000 km northeast of New Zealand, which is part of a nature reserve.

One staff member was missing after going on a routine mission to check the water temperature of the lake, the department said.

''Two staff went to investigate the area where the missing person was thought to be and they found that the track was impassable and further volcanic activity occurred and they retreated,'' Conservation spokeswoman Liz Maire told Reuters.

Maire said the staff member could not be contacted by radio.

The island had been shaken by an earthquake, estimated at between three and four on the Richter scale, at the same time as the eruption.

The helicopter was due at the island at around 1030 IST.

Maire said a separate search and rescue mission would be mounted for the missing person if the staff member was not located before the helicopter left.

The Kermadec Islands are a chain stretching about 250 km along the volcanically active Kermadec Trench. It is an area where the Pacific and Indo-Australian tectonic plates meet and earthquakes are common.


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