OSLO, October 29. /TASS/. A search for a Mi-8 helicopter that crashed in the sea off Spitsbergen on Thursday, is conducted "in the best way possible," the Russian consul general in Spitsbergen, Vyacheslav Nikolayev, said in an interview with Norway’s national broadcaster NRK on Saturday.
"The search and rescue effort is conducted in the best way possible, the cooperation between the authorities of the two countries functions well," he said.
According to the diplomat, Russia is ready to render all necessary assistance to the Norwegian authorities in search for the aircraft, acting in strict compliance with diplomatic procedures.
"Of course, it [the disaster] affected people, but we are all aware of where we live. The Arctic climate is harsh," Nikolayev said when asked to comment on the moods in Barentsburg, the Russian mining community in Spitsbergen.
A source in the office of Spitsbergen’s Norwegian governor told TASS that the Russian Emergencies Ministry’s Il-76 plane landed in the local Svalbard airport at approximateluy 2:30 Moscow time. The rescuers met with the governor and local authorities almost immediately.
The plan of Russia’s participation in the search and rescue effort will be laid down on Sunday morning. Later in the day, Russian rescue equipment will be delivered to the search area on board a Norwegian multi-purpose vessel.
The Russian team comprises 40 rescuers of the Russian Emergencies Ministry’s two leading units - the Tsentrospas State Central Airmobile Rescue Team and the Leader Center for High Risk Rescue Operations. Among them are 17 divers licensed to conduct search and rescue operations at great depths.
The equipment will include two small-sized remotely operated underwater vehicles used for search operations in costal or inland waters. The rescuers are equipped with compressors, motor boats of unique class and diving apparatuses for examining underwater objects.
On October 26, a helicopter of the Conversavia airline, carrying eight people, was en route from the mothballed community of Pyramiden to Barentsburg when radar contact with the aircraft was lost. At 15:35 local time (16:35 Moscow time), a call alerted the rescue center that the helicopter had gone missing. There were five crew and three employees of the Russian Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute on board the helicopter.
According to the Norwegian rescue coordination center, chances of finding any survivors are very slim. The wreckage of the aircraft is presumed to be on the seabed at the depth of about 200-250 meters, which seriously hampers the search effort.