A helicopter evacuated five conservation workers from an erupting volcano in the South Pacific on Friday, leaving behind a man who went missing when it began spewing ash, steam and mud into the sky.
Helicopter pilot John Funnell told TV One there was devastation around the crater lake area of Raoul Island, a nature reserve in New Zealand's remote Kermadec Islands.
The volcano erupted for about 30 minutes starting at 8:21 a.m. (2121 GMT Thursday) following strong earthquakes that began Sunday night, GNS Science, the country's main geological science group, said in a statement.
The eruption in one of the island's three main craters, known as Green Lake, coated the area round the lake in mud and ash up to five meters (16 feet) deep.
The eruption threw out mud, rocks and a plume of steam. No lava or molten rock was reported flowing from the vent.
A member of the government's Conservation Department staff, aged in his early 30s, was reported missing near the crater lake. The fate of the man, whose identity was not immediately released, was unknown.
The five rescued survivors, three men and two women, were "quite strained" by the ordeal and because they were leaving their colleague behind on the secluded island, located in the South Pacific about 1,000 kilometers (625 miles) northeast of the northern city of Auckland, Funnell, the helicopter pilot, told TV One by satellite phone.
"One staff member is missing after going on a routine mission to check the water temperature of the lake," department regional manager Rolien Elliot said. They check the water temperature to try to predict impending eruptions, reports the AP.
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