Russia: Hundreds of fishermen stranded on gigantic ice floe | News | DW | 29.01.2020
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Russia: Hundreds of fishermen stranded on gigantic ice floe

Over 500 ice fishermen have been saved in an emergency operation when a fissure occurred about 2 kilometers from the coast, stranding them. People tried using smaller pieces of ice as rafts to row back to shore.

Emergency services in Russia rescued over 500 ice fishermen after they became trapped on a giant sheet of floating ice that broke off an island in far-eastern Siberia, officials said.

The rescue mission took place off the coast of the island of Sakhalin in the Sea of Okhotsk, just north of Japan. The operation lasted approximately seven hours.

"Six hundred fishermen were cut off from the coast. Rescue work is in progress," Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry's regional branch was quoted as saying.

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Russland 536 Eisfischer gerettet (picture-alliance/AP/Russia Emergency Situations Ministry)

A group of fishermen use a smaller piece of ice as a raft to try and row to the coast, as the ice floe with stranded fishermen on them slowly drifted further away

Improvised life rafts

Around 60 more fishermen managed to return to shore on their own Tuesday evening, emergency officials said.

Footage of the scene showed groups of people using smaller slabs of ice as rafts in an attempt to row to the coast, the Associated Press reported.

A video released by the Russian television network Ren TV showed some people on a small drifting ice sheet using a rope to try to pull themselves back to a group on another nearby ice slab.

Some fishermen said that, at the time of the rescue, the gigantic ice floe had already drifted 200 meters from the coast.

Safety warnings go unheeded

Wednesday's operation marked the third time in just a week that emergency services in Sakhalin had to save ice fishermen trapped on ice floes.

On January 22, approximately 300 people became stranded on a drifting ice sheet and on Sunday 600 others did.

Local authorities say fishermen continue to fish and put themselves in danger despite safety warnings.

Alerts have been raised in recent days because of dangerous conditions caused by thin and melting ice, according to the Emergency Situations Ministry.

"Contrary to common sense and the authorities' warnings, sent via text message and the media, that going out onto the ice is extremely dangerous, several hundred people decided to try their luck anyway and ventured out onto unreliable ice," the ministry said in a statement.

mvb/rc (AP, dpa)

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