Russia sends icebreaker to rescue fishermen

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Russia on Thursday dispatched a third icebreaker through howling storms to the rescue of hundreds of fishermen trapped in icy seas off Russia's Far East coast since December 30.

The Admiral Krasin icebreaker was encountering "heavy snow, zero visibility, snow-covered ice" and other difficulties as it tried to reach three stranded vessels, ITAR-TASS quoted a transportation ministry spokesman as saying.

More than 400 people became trapped when their craft -- a canning factory ship, a refrigerator ship and a research vessel -- ran into bad weather in the Sea of Okhotsk, an arm of the Pacific stretching between the Kamchatka Peninsula and the Sakhalin Islands.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin talked to the captain of one of the ships by telephone Tuesday, telling him to "hold on" and promising that help would reach them soon.

Two icebreakers had previously been sent to rescue the fishermen, one of which became stuck on Wednesday and was later forced to retreat to safer waters.

The second icebreaker, the Admiral Makarov, was still two miles away from the stranded craft, news agencies reported.

Russian news reports have said that the fisherman had sufficient food and water supplies, and no problems on board the vessels were reported Thursday.

"There is no immediate threat to the stranded ships," the transportation ministry official said.

© 2011 AFP

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