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Crew of Russian ship distressed off NZ trying to patch hole in hull

December 16, 2011, 8:51 UTC+3
The 40x10 centimeters hole 1.5 meters below the waterline has been covered with tarred canvass to stop water leakage
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Photo ITAR-TASS

Photo ITAR-TASS

LONDON, December 16 (Itar-Tass) —— The crew of the Russian fishing boat Sparta in distress off the coast of New Zealand are taking effort to patch the hole the ship received after collision with an ice floe, New Zealand rescue authorities said on Friday.

The 40x10 centimeters hole 1.5 meters below the waterline has been covered with tarred canvass to stop water leakage. So far, the crew are managing to cope with the coming water, rescuers said.

The crew asked New Zealand’s rescue authorities to provide more pumps. Rescuers are now considering how to deliver them to the distressed ship. If the crew manage to pump all the water from lower holds, the ship will become much lighter and the hole will be above the waterline to make it much easier for the crew to mend the hole, rescuers said. The ship is listing 13 degrees and water is still leaking. Earlier to lessen the weight of the ship the crew threw out cargoes.

An American plane from the McMurdo Station research base on Friday flew over the ship to assess ice conditions. There are no helicopters in the area to evacuate the people. According to American pilots, the ship is now in an ice-free area but ice blanket in the nearby waters of the Ross Sea are up to 1.5 meters thick. Some members of the Sparta crew are in lifeboats but on Antarctic ice as was reported earlier.

Two ships are heading for the scene. One of them, which is said to be of the same design as the Russian Sparta and is incapable of breaking through sea ice, is now some 540 kiloteres away from the Russian boat. Another one, more adjusted for sailing through ice, is 870 kiloteres away from the Sparta. According to rescuers, it will take at least four days for these two to reach the Russian distressed vessel.

Reports say that a third ship was sent to the area but has been trapped in thick ice.

According to latest reports, the boat had a crew of 32, including 15 Russians, 16 Indonesians, and a Ukrainian. All are safe. The crew have wetsuits to be protected from overcooling and other rescue devices in case they will have to leave the boat.

The Sparta is around 3,700 kilometers southeast of New Zealand.

Built in 1988, the 846-ton Sparta boat is 55 meters long and has a cruising capacity of 50 days. The weather in the area of the accident is calm with air temperature of up to three degrees Centigrade.

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