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Foreign ships head to Russian vessel locked in Antarctic ice

December 26, 2013, 16:25 UTC+3 VLADIVOSTOK

However, the ships might not reach the site until December 28

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VLADIVOSTOK, December 26. /ITAR-TASS/. Australian ice- breaker Aurora and China's Xue Long Antarctic research vessel are heading into polar seas to help Russian research ship Akademik Shokalsky, stranded in the ice.

But the ships might not reach the site until December 28, Russia's Far East Vladivostok rescue co-ordination centre announced on Thursday, a day later than earlier reports suggested.

Sailors on the Russian ship have managed to repair a hole more than a meter long in the vessel's hull. For the moment, the ship is becalmed in the absence of ocean drift.

China's Xue Long began its rescue mission during a voyage bringing cargo to a Chinese polar research station. It set off, like the Australian ship, in response to an SOS radio signal sent by the distressed Russian crew.

Akademik Shokalsky became trapped in a zone of responsibility overseen by an Australian rescue service. The ship was located about 180 kilometers from the French Antarctic research station Dumont d'Urville.

Twenty-two crew and 52 passengers are aboard, including Australian scientists. The Russian ship is in order, but cannot free itself unaided from an ice trap estimated at 10 points, director of Russia's Far East Regional Hydrometeorological Research Institute Yuri Volkov told Itar-Tass.

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