New Zealand volcano still volatile

A South Pacific volcano remained volatile Tuesday, with observers reporting a significant rise in the water level of its crater lake, a phenomenon that occurred shortly before the volcano's last major eruption in 1964.

The crater on the remote Raoul Island exploded Friday, probably burying a conservation worker, who has been missing since, under five meters (16 feet) of mud and ash.

Inspected from the air, the volcano "is less active than Friday, with no cloud or ash plume, but ... it is still potentially volatile," said New Zealand Conservation Department area manager Rolien Elliott.

"Vulcanologists on the plane ... observed a rise in the level of the Green Lake of 6-8 meters (20-26 feet) compared to the footage of the area taken on Friday," she said.

The inspection flight saw no sign of Mark Kearney, 32, who was at the crater lake monitoring the water temperature when it erupted.

New Zealand's Conservation Minister Chris Carter said Kearney, a Conservation Department staff member, was almost certainly killed in the eruption on the remote island in the Kermadec group, 1,000 kilometers (625 miles) north of New Zealand.

Police, vulcanologists and eight conservation staff, including the five who were evacuated Friday, arrived at the island Tuesday to check conditions and search for Kearney.

Elliott said conservation workers returning to the island were "shocked by the destruction from the eruption."

"Large trees are just uplifted and blown apart. Boulders are strewn across a large area with a thick layer of ash everywhere around the eruption site," she said, reports the AP.

I.L.