Russian vessel sends mayday from icy Antarctic waters

15th December 2011, Comments 0 comments

Rescue vessels are racing to reach a Russian fishing boat which sent a distress signal early Friday from the icy Southern Ocean near Antarctica, New Zealand officials said.

The Russian-flagged Sparta, with a crew of 32, is taking on water and the nearest help is several days away, according to the New Zealand Rescue Co-ordination Centre.

Officials said that the 55-metre vessel was near the Antarctic ice shelf, about 2,000 nautical miles (3,704 kilometres) south east of New Zealand and was listing.

Rescue co-ordinator Tracy Brickles said there were no helicopters in the area and the focus was on contacting ships which could go to Spata's aid.

"We have contacted a number of vessels," Brickles said.

"However, the closest ones are hampered by heavy ice, making vessel movement very difficult. The closest vessel which can cut through the ice is several days away."

A sister ship of Sparta, the Chiyo Maru No 3, is also several days' sailing away.

A US search and rescue team based at the Antarctic research centre at McMurdo Station was preparing a Hercules aircraft to fly over Sparta and assess the ice conditions.

© 2011 AFP

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