Icebound ship rescue thwarted in Antarctic

Operation to save the 52 people on Russian ship suffers another setback when Chinese rescue vessel becomes marooned.

Last updated: 02 Jan 2014 03:46
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The Russian MV Akademik Shokalskiy, has been trapped in ice since Christmas Eve, December 24 [File: AFP]

The operation to rescue the 52 people, including scientists, tourists and crew on the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy, stranded on a Russian ship in Antarctica Ice has suffered a new setback.

A journalist onboard an Australian ship nearby told Al Jazeera by telephone on Thursday that a Chinese vessel sent to launch a helicopter rescue had also been marooned.

The Chinese Snow Dragon, which had been waiting with the Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis at the edge of the ice pack, was also unable to crack through the ice, as was France's L'Astrolabe.

The Russian MV Akademik Shokalskiy, has been trapped in ice since Christmas Eve, December 24. High winds and heavy snow have stopped other ships from reaching the stranded vessel.

Those on board are preparing to be rescued by helicopter, after three icebreakers failed to reach the paralysed vessel, officials said on Tuesday. The helicopter on board the Chinese icebreaker, the Snow Dragon, will now be used to collect the passengers.

The helicopter was to wait for a break in the weather before it could attempt a rescue, the maritime authority said.

The passengers will be flown back to the Snow Dragon in groups of 12, and then transferred by barge to the Aurora Australis.

All 52 passengers will be evacuated, but the crew on the Akademik Shokalskiy will stay behind with the ship and wait for the ice to break up naturally, expedition spokesman Alvin Stone said.

The passengers had been hoping the Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis would be able to crack through the thick ice and allow them to continue on their way.

The Aurora came within 20km of the ship on Monday, but fierce winds and snow forced it to retreat to open water.


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