Icebreakers free boat in Russia's Far East

30th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

Icebreakers managed on Sunday to free an ice-trapped vessel carrying hundreds of Russian sailors in the Sea of Okhotsk after a month-long rescue effort, authorities said.

"The operation to release the factory ship Sodruzhestvo from the ice where it was trapped is over," Russia's transportation ministry announced of the fishing boat, which had 368 people on board, in a statement carried on the RIA Novosti news agency.

Thick ice has trapped five boats carrying a total of nearly 600 people in the Bay of Sakhalin, in Russia's Far East, between the end of December and early January.

Authorities say the ice in the region is an unusual mix of fresh water from the Amur River and salt water from the Okhotsk Sea, making a particularly difficult mass to break.

On January 4, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin vowed the Sodruzhestvo would be freed in "24 hours."

Ultimately it took nearly a month involving a total of three icebreakers and helicopters to release the vessels.

© 2011 AFP

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