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Chinese copter to rescue stranded Antarctic vessel

Updated: 2013-12-31 19:11
( Xinhua)

CANBERRA -- The helicopter on board the Chinese icebreaker Xue Long will be used to rescue the passengers from the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy, the Australian Maritime Safety Authority's (AMSA) Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC Australia) confirmed Tuesday.

According to the AMSA, The Aurora Australis advised RCC Australia this morning it would be at risk of becoming beset by ice itself if it continued to make further rescue attempts.

The Aurora Australis made attempts on Monday to reach the MV Akademik Shokalskiy but was driven back into open waters due to adverse weather conditions such as winds up to 30 knots and snow showers resulting in poor visibility. The ship is currently located about 16 nautical miles east of the Russian vessel.

In preparation for the rescue, an area for the helicopter to land has been marked on the ice near the MV Akademik Shokalskiy.

But RCC Australia confirmed that this rescue will be a complex operation involving a number of steps and subject to factors such as weather.

The helicopter of Xue Long is unable to fly in the current weather conditions and will hold off on the rescue until conditions improve. Weather conditions are unlikely to start improving until Wednesday and decisions related to carrying out the rescue may be made at short notice.

RCC Australia has also been advised that all 52 passengers leave the MV Akademik Shokalskiy. And all 22 crew members are expected to remain with the vessel.

According to its arrangements, the passengers are expected to be rescued by helicopter in groups of 12 and will be initially transported to Xue Long. The Aurora Australis will then use its barge to transfer all 52 passengers on board their vessel.

The Russian ship, MV Akademik Shokalskiy, built in Finland in 1982, is carrying a team of Australian scientists and other passengers to conduct scientific experiments. It is scheduled to return to New Zealand in January 2014. And it sent a distress call on Christmas Day after becoming trapped in heavy sea ice in Antarctic sea.

The Aurora Australis is the last ship in the area that will be able to help. For the past days, two icebreakers, Chinese icebreaker Xue Long and French icebreaker Astrolabe, have already given up on efforts to push through the thick and dangerous ice floes to free the trapped ship.

Chinese copter to rescue stranded Antarctic vessel
Poor weather hampers rescue effort

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