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Chinese Rescue Icebreaker May be Stuck in Antarctic Ice

  • VOA News

FILE - A general view of Chinese ice breaker ship 'Xuelong' - also called 'Snow Dragon' - docking at Tianjin.

FILE - A general view of Chinese ice breaker ship 'Xuelong' - also called 'Snow Dragon' - docking at Tianjin.

All 52 passengers aboard a Russian research ship stuck in ice for over a week in Antarctica were airlifted to safety Thursday, but now there are concerns that a Chinese vessel involved in the rescue has also gotten stuck.

On Friday, the crew of the Chinese icebreaker Snow Dragon, which provided the helicopter used in the airlift, said they were worried about their ship's ability to move through the thick sea ice after remaining stationary for several days.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority reported that the Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis, tasked with taking the rescued passengers back to Australia, has been instructed to stay in the area temporarily in case the Snow Dragon needs help. The Authority said the crew of the Chinese ship will attempt to break through to open water early Saturday when tidal conditions are more favorable.

The Australian Maritime Safety Authority said Thursday that the passengers had been safely evacuated from the Akademik Shokalskiy, which has been stranded since December 24.

All passengers aboard the research ship were airlifted to safety after a rescue helicopter was finally able to land nearby.

Chris Turney, one of the scientists on the ship, posted a message to Twitter saying the passengers reached a nearby Australian icebreaker ship "safe and sound."

The passengers - including scientists, tourists, and journalists - were airlifted 12 at a time to the Australian vessel.

Blizzard conditions hampered previous attempts to evacuate the passengers by helicopter. Icebreaker ships from China, Australia and France had also failed to reach the Russian vessel.

Seventy-four people were on board the Akademik Shokalskiy, which has weeks of supplies and is in no danger of sinking. Most of the 22-member Russian crew are expected to stay behind and wait for the ice to break up naturally.

The Russian ship, which left New Zealand on November 28, was trying to recreate Australian explorer Douglas Mawson's century-old voyage to Antarctica.
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