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Missing volcano worker 'presumed dead'

'No chance' of surviving NZ eruption

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Hopes for missing conservation worker Mark Kearney on the New Zealand volcanic island Raoul are slim. Kearney was part of a New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) team carrying out routine monitoring when Raoul unexpectedly erupted on Friday.

His father Ray said: "Mark was basically sitting on a bomb when it exploded."

Mark Kearney's five fellow researchers are aboard ship headed straight back to the remote Kermadec chain island to look for him after they were rescued by helicopter. The seaborne mission is expected to arrive on Raoul at about 9am local time on Tuesday. A reconnaisance plane has been sent ahead to assess safety.

DOC area manager Rolien Elliot said: "The Raoul team are keen to get back to the island to be involved in any search that may occur for their work mate and friend Mark."

Conservation Minister Chris Carter is not hopeful, however: "He was at the exact epicentre of the massive destruction, including where five metres of ash fell."

Raoul erupted early last Friday. The activity lasted about 40 seconds and threw out a plume of steam and ash, flattening trees on the island. New Zealand's Geological and Nuclear Sciences Institute said since then about 40 small earthquakes have been recorded but volcanic activity has ceased.

Kearney, 32, was away from the research station measuring the temperature of the water filling one of Raoul's craters. Ray Kearney is pessimistic about his son's chances: "Realistically I believe he was still in the crater and if that was the case, there's no chance."®

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