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Passengers of ice-trapped Akademik Shokalsky ship to be evacuated if weather improves

There are 22 members of the Russian crew and 52 passengers on board

MOSCOW, December 30 (Itar-Tass) - It has been decided to evacuate 52 passengers and four crew members of the Russian ice-nipped research ship Akademik Shokalsky by a helicopter from the Chinese icebreaker Xue Long, or The Snow Dragon, Russia’s Foreign Ministry said on Monday.

There are 74 people on board the ice-nipped research vessel, including 22 members of the Russian crew and 52 passengers — a group of scientists from the Australian Antarctic expedition and travellers accompanying them.

Considering the adverse weather conditions and the ice situation, none of the icebreakers sent to assist the ship - the Chinese icebreaker Snow Dragon and the Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis - have not yet managed to approach the Akademik Shokalsky. The Chinese icebreaker Snow Dragon is about 6.7 nautical miles away, while the Australian Aurora Australis icebreaker is drifting at a distance of 18 miles from the Russian ship.

“The Russian Embassy in Australia maintains permanent communication with the authorities of the receiving country and the captain of the Akademik Shokalsky research ship, Igor Kiselyov,” the ministry said. “As follows from what the captain says, all the crew members and other expedition participants are in good health. There life and safety are not at risk.”

The research trip was ice-trapped some 180 kilometers off the Antarctic coast on December 24. The expedition started from New Zealand at the end of November, and was due to end early in January.