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Bad weather complicates search for Russian helicopter missing off Spitzbergen coast

October 26, 19:01 UTC+3 MOSCOW

There were three pilots and five passengers aboard the helicopter

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© Yuri Smityuk/TASS

MOSCOW, October 26. /TASS/. Low visibility is complicating the search for a Russian helicopter that has gone missing off the island of Spitzbergen, a source in Russia’s emergencies services told TASS on Thursday.

"There is poor visibility in the area of the search for a Mi-8 helicopter, which is complicating the search efforts," the source said.

As the Rescue Service of Northern Norway told TASS, Norwegian rescuers intend to apply to their Russian counterparts for help in the search for the helicopter that has gone missing near Spitzbergen.

"We have received information that communication with the Russian Mi-8 helicopter was lost in the area of Barentsburg," a rescuer said, adding that Norwegian rescuer helicopters and ships will be involved in the search effort.

"We will turn to our Russian counterparts for help in conducting the rescue operation," he said.

According to preliminary information, there were eight persons aboard the helicopter.

The helicopter belongs to Conversavia airline. "The helicopter belongs to our company. As of now, we do not confirm the information that the helicopter has crashed. At the current moment, there is no communication with it," Conversavia Deputy CEO Dmitry Zhelyazkov told TASS.

As was reported earlier, the helicopter was en route from the mothballed community of Pyramiden to Barentsburg. At 15:35 local time the rescue center received a message the helicopter had gone missing. The air incident was confirmed ten minutes later. The Norwegian rescue center’s northern branch is coordinating the search and rescue operation.

There were three pilots and five passengers aboard the helicopter, the Russian emergencies services told TASS.

"There were three crewmembers and five passengers - coalminers of Arktikugol company. Their fate is unknown," the emergencies services said.

The helicopter was in a proper technical condition and underwent maintenance before the flight, Conversavia said.

"The helicopter is technically fit and was regularly checked [before flights]," the airline said, adding that "the machine was not old," but did not specify its production year.

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