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Rescuers practice Russian know-how in Arctic operations

Russian rescuers are preparing for active work in the Arctic, both in the mainland’s northern areas and on the Arctic Ocean’s archipelagoes

MURMANSK, February 13. /TASS/. Russian rescuers are preparing for active work in the Arctic - both in the mainland’s northern areas and on the Arctic Ocean’s archipelagoes. Head of the emergencies ministry’s North-Western Search-Rescue Team Alexander Alekseyev says the team members have regular trainings and study new equipment, including unique samples, designed by Russian scientists to work in extreme climate conditions.

"As yet, we have not been involved in rescue operations on archipelagoes, but we are training for that," he told TASS. "Work in the Arctic requires special training and equipment."

Working below zero

The North-Western team was established in 1993. Its area of responsibility is the North-Western Federal District and the adjacent 12-mile sea zone. Almost 700 rescuers are in the team. In October 2015, the Arctic rescue center opened in Murmansk - it is one of the ten complex emergency-rescue centers to be organized in the Russian Arctic zone: in Anadyr, Arkhangelsk, Naryan-Mar, Vorkuta, Nadym, Dudinka and Tiksi. Some of the centers are ready by now. They will offer rescue at shore and sea, during accidents at gas, oil and other hazardous facilities, including in the Arctic waters.

The main specific character of working in the Arctic and near the Arctic area is big distances and low temperatures. "Rescuers here should use special equipment, instruments, clothing and communication means," the official said. "For our work, we need also special buildings, frost-resistant lubricants, insulated covers, and so on."

Under the current anti-Russian sanctions, rescuers are using many Russia-made products to replace the banned import.

A special training center is organized in Vytegra. Here, the personnel are trained for working in conditions of the Far North and Arctic, where the main feature is extremely low air temperatures. Another round of the Barents-Rescue international exercises is due in early autumn in Petrozavodsk.

Transport in Arctic

The transport component is a priority for work in the Arctic seas and archipelagoes. Rescuers need helicopters and ice vessels. If helicopter bases are organized along the Arctic Ocean, rescuers will be able to cover the entire Northern Sea Route and the archipelagoes, the official said.

Russian specialists now are working on a modified version of a helicopter, which could work in the Arctic. "It should have changeable modules, so that it could be used both for rescuing people, for extinguishing fire, and in operations after technology accidents," head of the rescue team said. "The modification will be a version of Mil Mi-8."

Whether helicopter bases will be organized along the entire shore line - would depend on the concept of rescuers’ work in the Arctic. The emergencies ministry’s university in St. Petersburg is working on complex emergency-rescue centers, where the option of helicopter and sea bases would be analyzed. Further on, results of this research may be included in the state program for development of the Arctic.

Currently, a Hivus-20 hovercraft undergoes tests in the Arctic. The hovercraft is made at the Aerokhod Company (Nizhny Novgorod). It has changeable modules, superb technical features, good crossing capacity, it may go across ice hummocks, and the propeller used allows the vehicle to move in reverse.

Rescuers also have special vehicles to cross peats, snowed areas, all-terrain vehicles, which are adjusted accordingly after rescuers test them and give professional suggestions. "We are also using drones, including those with infra-red optics so that searches could be made even in limited-vision conditions," he said.