Chinese helicopter lifts passengers from trapped Russian ship

Beijing, Jan 2: A Chinese helicopter Thursday transferred all 52 passengers aboard a stranded Russian ship to a safer place near an Australian rescue ship, 10 days after the MV Akademik Shokalskiy got stuck in ice in the Antarctic sea.

The passengers, as well as luggage, scientific instruments and equipment, were flown to a safer place near the Aurora Australis by Xueying 12, a helicopter on board China’s icebreaker Xuelong, and are aboard the Australian ship. An earlier flight examined the surrounding area to prepare for landing on ice, Xinhua reported.

Xueying captain Jia Shuliang Wednesday said they were ready to transfer the 52 scientists and tourists aboard MV Akademik Shokalskiy in groups of 12 passengers.

As it is summer in Antarctica now, night is as bright as day, so rescuing flights can be done without break, Igor Kiselev, captain of the MV Akademik Shokalskiy said after the first group of 12 passengers were airlifted in the afternoon.

Each flight takes 45 minutes, so in all, five to six hours are needed, said the captain.

The MV Akademik Shokalskiy, built in Finland in 1982, was carrying a team of scientists and other passengers to conduct experiments. It sent a distress call on Christmas Day after getting trapped in heavy sea ice in the Antarctic. It was scheduled to return to New Zealand in January 2014.

Xuelong, which left Shanghai in early November on China’s 30th scientific expedition to Antarctica, has established an emergency relief working group after the Russian ship’s captain sent a formal request Tuesday for chopper rescue.

IANS