Posts Tagged ‘helicopter’

White supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA linked to three deaths

August 13, 2017

The Associated Press

© Paul J. Richards, AFP | People receive first-aid after a car accident rammed into a crowd of protesters in Charlottesville, VA on August 12, 2017.

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-08-13

A car plowed into a crowd of people peacefully protesting a white nationalist rally Saturday in a Virginia college town, killing one person, hurting more than a dozen others and ratcheting up tension in a day full of violent confrontations.

Shortly after, a Virginia State Police helicopter that officials said was assisting with the rally crashed outside Charlottesville, killing the pilot and a trooper.

The chaos boiled over at what is believed to be the largest group of white nationalists to come together in a decade. The governor declared a state of emergency, and police dressed in riot gear ordered people out. The group had gathered to protest plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, and others arrived to protest the racism.

Matt Korbon, a 22-year-old University of Virginia student, said several hundred counter-protesters were marching when “suddenly there was just this tire screeching sound.” A silver Dodge Challenger smashed into another car, then backed up, barreling through “a sea of people.”

The impact hurled people into the air. Those left standing scattered, screaming and running for safety in different directions.

The driver was later identified by police as James Alex Fields Jr. of Ohio. Police say Fields, 20, has been charged with charged with second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding, and one count related to leaving the scene. A bond hearing is scheduled for Monday.

Field’s mother, Samantha Bloom, told The Associated Press on Saturday night that she knew her son was attending a rally in Virginia but didn’t know it was a white supremacist rally.

“I thought it had something to do with Trump. Trump’s not a white supremacist,” Bloom said.

“He had an African-American friend so …,” she said before her voice trailed off. She added that she’d be surprised if her son’s views were that far right.

Bloom, who became visibly upset as she learned of the injuries and deaths at the rally, said she and her son had just moved to the Toledo area from the northern Kentucky city of Florence. She said that’s where Fields grew up. She relocated to Ohio for work.

Late Saturday, the Department of Justice announced the opening of a federal civil rights investigation into the deadly car attack. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that the FBI’s Richmond field office and Rick Mountcastle, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia, will lead the investigation.

“The violence and deaths in Charlottesville strike at the heart of American law and justice,” Sessions said in a statement. “When such actions arise from racial bigotry and hatred, they betray our core values and cannot be tolerated.”

The turbulence began Friday night, when the white nationalists carried torches though the University of Virginia campus. It quickly spiraled into violence Saturday morning. Hundreds of people threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays. At least three more men have been arrested in connection to the protests

The Virginia State Police announced late Saturday that Troy Dunigan, a 21-year-old from Chattanooga, Tennessee, was charged with disorderly conduct; Jacob L. Smith, a 21-year-old from Louisa, Virginia, was charged with assault and battery; and James M. O’Brien, 44, of Gainesville, Florida, was charged with carrying a concealed handgun.

City officials said treated 35 patients altogether, 19 of whom were injured in the car crash.

State Police said in a statement that the helicopter was “assisting public safety resources with the ongoing situation” when it crashed in a wooded area. The pilot, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen, 48, of Midlothian, Virginia, and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates of Quinton, Virginia, died at the scene.

President Donald Trump condemned “in the strongest possible terms” what he called an “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides” after the clashes. He called for “a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives.”

Trump said he had spoken with the governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, and “we agreed that the hate and the division must stop and must stop right now.”

But some of the white nationalists cited Trump’s victory as validation for their beliefs, and Trump’s critics pointed to the president’s racially tinged rhetoric as exploiting the nation’s festering racial tension.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson noted that Trump for years publicly questioned President Barack Obama’s citizenship.

“We are in a very dangerous place right now,” he said.

Right-wing blogger Jason Kessler had called for what he termed a “pro-white” rally in Charlottesville, sparked by the monument decision. White nationalists and their opponents promoted the event for weeks.

Oren Segal, who directs the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, said multiple white power groups gathered in Charlottesville, including members of neo-Nazi organizations, racist skinhead groups and Ku Klux Klan factions.

The white nationalist organizations Vanguard America and Identity Evropa; the Southern nationalist League of the South; the National Socialist Movement; the Traditionalist Workers Party; and the Fraternal Order of Alt Knights also were on hand, he said, along with several groups with a smaller presence.

On the other side, anti-fascist demonstrators also gathered in Charlottesville, but they generally aren’t organized like white nationalist factions, said Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Many others were just locals caught in the fray.

Colleen Cook, 26, stood on a curb shouting at the rally attendees to go home.

Cook, a teacher who attended the University of Virginia, said she sent her son, who is black, out of town for the weekend.

“This isn’t how he should have to grow up,” she said.

Cliff Erickson leaned against a fence and took in the scene. He said he thinks removing the statue amounts to erasing history and said the “counter-protesters are crazier than the alt-right.”

“Both sides are hoping for a confrontation,” he said.

It’s the latest hostility in Charlottesville since the city about 100 miles outside of Washington, D.C., voted earlier this year to remove a statue of Lee.

In May, a torch-wielding group that included prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer gathered around the statue for a nighttime protest, and in July, about 50 members of a North Carolina-based KKK group traveled there for a rally, where they were met by hundreds of counter-protesters.

Kessler said this week that the rally is partly about the removal of Confederate symbols but also about free speech and “advocating for white people.”

“This is about an anti-white climate within the Western world and the need for white people to have advocacy like other groups do,” he said in an interview.

Charlottesville Mayor Michael Signer said he was disgusted that the white nationalists had come to his town and blamed Trump for inflaming racial prejudices.

“I’m not going to make any bones about it. I place the blame for a lot of what you’re seeing in American today right at the doorstep of the White House and the people around the president,” he said.

Charlottesville, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, is a liberal-leaning city that’s home to the flagship UVA and Monticello, the home of Thomas Jefferson.

The statue’s removal is part of a broader city effort to change the way Charlottesville’s history of race is told in public spaces. The city has also renamed Lee Park, where the statue stands, and Jackson Park, named for Confederate General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. They’re now called Emancipation Park and Justice Park, respectively.

For now, the Lee statue remains. A group called the Monument Fund filed a lawsuit arguing that removing the statue would violate a state law governing war memorials. A judge has agreed to temporarily block the city from removing the statue for six months.

(AP)

Somalia wants Saudi probe of refugee boat attack

March 19, 2017

AFP

© AFP | The refugees were hit by light weapons fire in waters off the rebel-held Yemeni port city of Hodeida
MOGADISHU (AFP) – Somalia has called on the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen to investigate an incident in which dozens of Somali refugees were shot dead on board a boat.It was not immediately clear who was behind the attack that killed more than 40 Somali refugees in waters off the coast of war-torn Yemen early on Friday.

The bloodshed was quickly condemned by UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross, and Somalia’s Foreign Minister Abdusalam Omer urged the Saudi-led coalition fighting Huthi rebels in Yemen to investigate.

Somalia is a member of the US-backed coalition fighting against Shiite Huthi rebels aligned with Iran.

“We call on our partners in the Saudi-led coalition to investigate the raid,” the minister said in a statement released late Saturday.

“It is very sad, targeting a boat carrying Somali migrants near the coast of Hodeida in Yemen.”

On Friday, a coalition spokesman denied responsibility for the attack.

The Red Sea attack took place off rebel-held port of Hodeida, with women and children among the dead.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM), which has operations in Yemen, said 42 bodies were found, and more than 30 wounded people were reportedly taken to hospital.

The IOM said it believed the boat was heading for Sudan when it was attacked.

Despite a two-year war that has cost more than 7,000 lives and brought the country to the brink of famine, Yemen continues to attract people fleeing the horn of Africa.

The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, says Yemen is hosting more than 255,000 Somali refugees.

Related:

© STR / AFP | A man shows a blood-stained registration form for refugees with the UNHCR on March 17, 2017

Dozens of Somalis killed as helicopter targets refugee boat

March 18, 2017

AFP and Reuters

© STR / AFP | A man shows a blood-stained registration form for refugees with the UNHCR on March 17, 2017

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-03-18

At least 40 Somali refugees were killed off the coast of Yemen late on Thursday when a helicopter attacked the boat they were travelling in, the United Nations refugee agency said.

Mohamed al-Alay, a coast guard officer in the Houthi-controlled Hodeidah area, told Reuters the refugees, carrying official UNHCR documents, were on their way from Yemen to Sudan when they were attacked by an Apache helicopter near the Bab al-Mandeb strait.

The UNHCR said on its Twitter account at least 40 refugees were reported dead.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) put the death toll at 33 and said 29 were wounded and other passengers were missing.

It was not immediately clear who carried out the attack.

“We do not know who carried it out but survivors said they came under attack from another boat at 9 p.m., the crew used lights and shouted to signal this is a civilian boat,” ICRC spokeswoman Iolanda Jaguemet said.

Hudaydah boat incident: Our thoughts are with the survivors of this tragic event and the families of those deceasedhttp://www.unhcr.org/news/press/2017/3/58cc01754/unhcr-appalled-attack-refugee-boat-yemen.html 

Photo published for UNHCR appalled at attack on refugee boat off Yemen
UNHCR appalled at attack on refugee boat off Yemen

UNHCR is appalled by the deaths of refugees after a boat carrying them across the Red Sea from Yemen to Sudan was reportedly attacked overnight on Thursday

unhcr.org

“Nevertheless it did not have any effect and a helicopter joined in the attack,” she said.

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Shabia Mantoo, the UNHCR spokeswoman in Yemen, confirmed that a number of refugees were killed.

“We are distressed by this incident and understand that refugees were travelling in a vessel off the coast of Hodeidah which was reportedly impacted during the course of hostilities,” she said.

A sailor who had been operating the boat, Ibrahim Ali Zeyad, said 80 refugees had been rescued.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said the number of dead may be more than 31.

“We just got information of a helicopter assault on a boat leaving Yemen, we believe for Sudan, full of Somalis,” spokesman Joel Millman told a news briefing in Geneva.

He said the IOM was aware of 80 survivors brought to hospitals in Hodeidah.

ICRC’s Eric Christopher Wyss said: “It was a heartbreaking scene. I saw many men, women and children either killed or horribly wounded.”

The Saudi-led coalition that is fighting Houthi forces in Yemen said it did not conduct any operations or have any engagement in the Hodeidah area on Thursday.

Coalition spokesman General Ahmed al-Asseri said Hodeidah remained under the control of the Houthis and the port continued to be used for “trafficking people, smuggling weapons and attacks against the line of communications in the Red Sea”.

Hodeidah is controlled by Iran-allied Houthi fighters who overran Yemen’s capital Sanaa in 2014 and forced the Saudi-backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to flee into exile.

The Saudi-led coalition was formed in 2015 to fight the Houthis and troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh who have fired missiles into neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

The Bab al-Mandeb is a strategic waterway in the Red Sea through which nearly 4 million barrels of oil are shipped daily.

(REUTERS)

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Brazil: Four dead after police helicopter ‘shot down by drug gang’ — Rio de Janeiro’s notorious “City of God” Area — Helicopter droped from the sky like a stone — Four Police Officers Killed

November 20, 2016

BBC News

Firefighters recovered four bodies from the wreckage of the aircraft. AP photo

Four police officers have died after their helicopter crashed over Rio de Janeiro’s notorious City of God favela.

In video footage of the crash, sustained gunfire can be heard before the helicopter drops from the sky like a stone, narrowly missing a main road.

The helicopter was giving support to a police operation against gangs in the favela, according to police.

There had been several clashes during the day between police and criminal gangs operating in the area.

Firefighters removed the bodies of the victims from the wreckage, which could be seen in the footage crumpled and smoking.

A police spokesman said that forensics officers were examining the wreckage to determine the cause of the crash.

If the helicopter was shot down by gang members, it would not be a first for the city, which hosted the 2016 Olympics.

In 2009, drug traffickers opened fire on a police helicopter, causing it to explode and crash land on a football pitch, killing both pilots.

Violence has been on the rise in Rio over the past two years following the failure of a 2010 programme to rid the favelas of drug gangs.

A total of 3,649 murders were reported in 2016 up until the end of September, a rise of almost 18% on the same period last year.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-38041847

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The Associted Press

police helicopter crashed on Saturday night in Rio de Janeiro, killing four officers, after a day of intense firefights with suspected criminals in the slum known as City of God.

It was not clear whether the helicopter was hit by gunfire or whether another factor caused it to crash. Police said they were investigating what happened.

Amateur video sent to local television stations showed the aircraft spinning as it appeared to plummet straight down. The helicopter fell in a populated area near City of God, but crashed in an open space near a major highway.

Crime and violence has been sweeping across Rio, just months after Brazil’s second biggest city hosted the Olympics.

An economic recession, rising unemployment and overstretched public finances have emboldened criminal gangs in areas like City of God, one of the best known of the city’s so-called favelas, sprawling slums which stretch across vast suburbs and climb up the scenic hillsides of central Rio.

In recent years, police had successfully pushed out drug traffickers and other gangs from many favelas.

However, crime is now worsening just as the state government, which is responsible for most of the security across a region of more than 16 million people, faces an expected budget shortfall of about 20 billion reais ($5.91 billion).

The murder rate across Rio in September soared nearly 18 per cent from the same period a year earlier to 3,649 reported deaths, according to state statistics.

Street crimes, including heists on public transport, surged by 44 per cent to nearly 92,000 reported incidents.

Though crime in Rio remains far lower than its peak in the 1980s and 90s, recent firefights and the crash on Saturday recalled periods when the city erupted in conflict.

In 2009, drug traffickers shot down a helicopter, killing two crew members, as police sought to “pacify” favelas ahead of the Olympics and 2014 World Cup.

The incident was the first downing of an aircraft by criminals in Rio and showed the challenge faced by law enforcers in a city where heavily-armed gangs increasingly possess enough firepower  to contend with state security forces.

China sends a helicopter to rescue Vietnamese fishermen one week after denial of safe harbor to Vietnamese fishermen during a storm

August 21, 2016

By Trong Giap   August 20, 2016 | 07:16 am GMT+7

China dispatches helicopter to rescue Vietnamese fisherman in Paracels

Illustrative photo by VnExpress/Tri Tin
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Just last week, however, China refused to allow six Vietnamese fishing boats to anchor near a reef in the archipelago.

Chinese authorities have sent a helicopter to pick up an injured Vietnamese fisherman from a fishing boat operating in the Paracel Islands for medical treatment on their Hainan Island, Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Friday, quoting information from the country’s National Committee for Search and Rescue and Vietnam’s Embassy in Beijing.

On August 16, fisherman Pham Van Thang, 28, was seriously wounded by the boat’s screw while fishing in the waters in the South China Sea (which Vietnam calls the East Sea). The captain of the boat sent an urgent request to Vietnamese authorities to rescue Thang.

The Vietnam Maritime Search and Rescue Coordination Center (MRCC) contacted China Search and Rescue Center for help. The Vietnamese center also told the fishing boat to move toward the closest location, the Woody Island in the Paracel Archipelago, which is under Chinese control.

As the injured fisherman lost a lot of blood and became weaker, the Chinese center sent a helicopter in the afternoon of August 17 to pick up Thang, following MRCC’s request.

Earlier this month, China had refused to allow six Vietnamese fishing boats to anchor near a reef in the Paracels while they were trying to find shelter from extreme weather.

The six fishing boats from Vietnam’s central province of Quang Nam with 259 crew on board had encountered rough seas and big waves on the morning of August 12 in waters 40 nautical miles from the Paracels, and had asked to take refuge in Bombay Reef, which is under Chinese control.

Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs contacted the Chinese side to ask for the boats to anchor in Bombay Reef but the Chinese authorities turned down the request, claiming that Bombay Reef was an unsuitable place for the boats to anchor.

In 1974, taking advantage of the withdrawal of the American troops from the Vietnam War, China invaded the Paracel Islands. A brief but bloody naval battle with the forces of the then U.S.-backed Republic of Vietnam ensued.

Vietnam’s behemoth northern neighbor has illegally occupied the islands ever since. But a post-1975 united Vietnam has never relinquished its ownership of the Paracel Islands.

http://e.vnexpress.net/news/news/china-dispatches-helicopter-to-rescue-vietnamese-fisherman-in-paracels-3455416.html

Related:

Vietnam fishing boat — A fishing boat from Quang Ngai province with six sailors on board was sunk by Chinese vessels on  while fishing near the Paracel (Hoang Sa) Islands, on or about 10 July 2016. Than Nien photo

China has a record of treating Vietnamese fishermen (and Filipino fishermen) with contempt and violence.

Sinocentrism (中華思想) Criticized — “Chinese have a casual Disregard for Vietnamese and Filipinos as Human Beings”

Rescue Raid into Syria for James Foley, Others — Delta Force commandos disappointed by intelligence failure on July 4

August 23, 2014

.

BEIRUT/WASHINGTON Fri Aug 22, 2014 8:54pm EDT

(Reuters) – It was just after midnight on July 4 when at least two dozen U.S. Delta Force commandos arrived on heavily armed Black Hawk helicopters in Akrishi, a small town near the eastern Syrian city of Raqqa on the bank of the Euphrates River.

Before they landed to search for American hostages including journalist James Foley, they destroyed a crucial target: anti-aircraft weapons at a jihadist base about 3 miles (5 km) southeast of the city, a stronghold of Islamic State militants seeking to build a monolithic Islamic state.

The above account and other details of the raid have emerged from witnesses who spoke with a member of a Syrian opposition activist group, who identified himself as Abu Ibrahim al Raqaoui. Raqaoui told the information to Reuters in an interview via Skype from inside Syria.

His group also posted witness accounts of the raid on Facebook soon after it took place. The posts, which were viewed by Reuters, have since been taken down.

“The raid happened just after midnight,” Raqaoui said. “The helicopters first started destroying anti-aircraft weapons.”Reuters could not verify the account.

The White House publicized details of the raid on Wednesday, a day after Islamic State jihadists posted a video showing Foley being beheaded. The White House said the commandos failed to find Foley or other hostages and that it was prompted to make the announcement after several U.S. news organizations learned of the operation.

The U.S. military incursion into the heart of Islamic State territory, made on U.S. Independence Day, ended in disappointment when the soldiers found no prisoners.

“BURNED THE CAMP”

After landing, the commandos blocked the main road to Raqqa and moved toward a makeshift jail believed to hold Foley and other hostages, Raqaoui said. Discovering Foley wasn’t there, they attacked the base, which the militants had named “Bin Laden”, after the former al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, Raqaoui said. They lit it on fire, he said.

“According to villagers, they burned the camp and killed all the ISIS fighters,” he said, using one of the acronyms that refer to the Islamic State.

U.S. officials said “many” Islamic State fighters were killed and one American soldier was wounded when a helicopter came under fire. Raqaoui’s account puts the number of wounded U.S. soldiers at two.

The mission was authorized by President Barack Obama and based on U.S. intelligence, including information from hostages who have been released, the administration said. U.S. officials would not confirm that it was on July 4.

It was first direct ground engagement between the United States and Islamic State militants, and the first known U.S. ground operation in Syria since the start of its civil war in 2011.

The raid’s failure to bring hostages home underscores the limits of U.S. intelligence about Syria’s chaotic conflict.

“We believed we had a good case for where they might be,” said one U.S. official who declined to be identified.

MILITANTS TIPPED OFF

A Syrian source close to the Islamic State told Reuters that the militants had been tipped off to the planned operation when Americans were seen asking about the hostages in the Turkish city of Antakya, about 12 miles (20 km) from the Syrian border.

“The Americans were looking for their hostages and desperately looking for any information,” said this person, who spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity.

“They met people in Antakya and asked questions. Afterwards, the operation became expected. The (Islamic) State anticipated the operation and took precautions. They expected it and that is why they have probably changed the location of the hostages.”

Rami Abdelrahman, founder of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors violence in the Syrian war via a network of activists across the country, said that at the time of the operation last month, his activists in Raqqa received a report from a single source close to the Islamic State saying that there had been a raid in the area by American troops.

“The residents said they heard the noise of aircraft and gunfire but did not know more than that,” he said.

The source close to the Islamic State had said at the time that some of the Americans had been killed, Abdelrahman said. The source said Islamic State fighters also had been hurt. “They said some of the brothers were wounded.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists, a U.S. independent group, estimates that two dozen kidnapped journalists, both local and foreigners, remain in Syria, including American Steven Sotloff who was shown at the end of the Islamic State video on Tuesday. The militant who killed Foley warned that Sotloff would be next if U.S air strikes persist.

U.S. warplanes and drones have continued daily attacks on Islamic State positions in Iraq. U.S. officials say they have not ruled out escalating military action against the jihadists, who have increased their threats against the United States since the air campaign in Iraq began two weeks ago.

(Writing by Jason Szep, additional reporting by Mariam Karouny and Tom Perry in Beirut, and Steve Holland and Missy Ryan in Washington; editing by Peter Henderson)

Arizona : Mexican Military Chopper Crosses Into US, Shoots At Border Agents

June 27, 2014

TUCSON, Ariz. (CBS Las Vegas)Border Patrol agents in Arizona were reportedly fired upon by a Mexican military helicopter that traveled across the border.

KVOA-TV reports that Mexican authorities were conducting a drug interdiction operation when the incident happened early Thursday morning on the Tohono O’odham Indian Nation. The Mexican chopper fired at the agents and then flew back into Mexico.

Art del Cueto, Border Patrol Tucson Sector union president, tells KVOA that they called and apologized for the incident.

“The incident occurred after midnight and before 6 a.m. Helicopter flew into the U.S. and fired on two U.S. Border Patrol agents,” del Cueto said in a statement to KVOA. “The incident occurred west of the San Miguel Gate on the Tohono O’odham Indian Nation. The agents were unharmed. The helicopter went back into Mexico. Mexico then contacted U.S. authorities and apologized for the incident.”

Andy Adame, Border Patrol spokesperson, said that Mexican authorities fired two shots at the border agents.

“Two shots were fired from the helicopter but no injuries or damage to U.S. property were reported,” Adame told KVOA.

The incident is under investigation.

 

See other Border Patrol stories here:

Arpaio: ‘Border Patrol Is Too Busy Changing Diapers’ To Go After Illegal Immigrants

Mayor: Immigrants Could Be Staying At Border Patrol Training Facility For More Than Year

Arizona Residents Monitoring Border Patrol Checkpoint

Border Patrol: Smugglers Use Cannon To Launch Cans Of Marijuana Into US

Border Patrol Officials Cancel Speaking Engagements At Security Expo Due To Sequester Cuts

Antarctic Rescue Still Has Drama: Chinese Icebreaker Xue Long Again Fears Becoming Trapped in Ice

January 3, 2014

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — An Australian icebreaker carrying 52 passengers who were retrieved from an icebound ship in the Antarctic was told to halt its journey home on Friday after a Chinese vessel involved in the dramatic rescue became concerned that it, too, may get stuck in the heavy sea ice.

The icebreaker Aurora Australis had been slowly cracking through thick ice toward open water after a Chinese helicopter on Thursday plucked the passengers from their stranded Russian research ship and carried them to the Aurora.

But on Friday afternoon, the crew of a Chinese icebreaker that had provided the helicopter said they were worried about their own ship’s ability to move through the ice. The Aurora — which was carrying the passengers to the Australian island state of Tasmania — was told to stay in the area in case the Chinese icebreaker Snow Dragon needs help, according to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s Rescue Coordination Centre, which oversaw the rescue.

The Snow Dragon, which is at the edge of the ice pack surrounding the Russian vessel, will attempt to push through the ice to open water on Saturday. The Aurora is waiting around 11 kilometers (7 miles) north of the Snow Dragon, said Lisa Martin, spokeswoman for the marine authority.

China’s icebreaker  Xue Long

The agency said the decision to place the Aurora on standby was a precaution and noted there was no danger to anyone on board the Snow Dragon. But it was yet another wrinkle in the highly complex rescue operation of those on board the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy, which got stuck in the ice on Christmas Eve.

A spot of clear weather on Thursday finally allowed the multinational rescue operation after blinding snow, strong winds and thick sea ice forced rescuers to turn back time and again.

The twin-rotor helicopter, which is based on the Snow Dragon, took seven hours to carry the scientists and tourists in groups of 12 from the Russian ship to the Aurora. Earlier, the passengers had linked arms and stomped out a landing site in the snow next to the Russian ship for the helicopter.

Helicopter pilot Jia Shuliang told China’s official Xinhua News Agency that he had no way of knowing whether the ice could withstand the helicopter’s weight.

The rescue came in the never-ending daylight of summer after days of failed attempts to reach the vessel.

“I think everyone is relieved and excited to be going on to the Australian icebreaker and then home,” expedition leader Chris Turney told The Associated Press by satellite phone from the Antarctic.

Sydney resident Joanne Sim, a paying passenger, wept as she boarded the Australian icebreaker. She said the passengers had spent their time watching movies and playing games.

The end is in sight: The first of the 52 passengers on a research ship trapped in Antarctic ice for more than a week finally make their way to a rescue helicopter after several aborted attempts to evacuate them

The end is in sight: The first of the 52 passengers on a research ship trapped in Antarctic ice for more than a week finally make their way to a rescue helicopter after several aborted attempts to evacuate them

The helicopter carried the passengers a dozen at a time over approximately five hoursThe helicopter carried the passengers a dozen at a time over approximately five hours

Sea ice was preventing the barge from reaching the Chinese icebreaker, the Snow Dragon, so the passengers are instead being taken to an nice floe next to an Australian vessel which will eventually take them to TasmaniaSea ice was preventing the barge from reaching the Chinese icebreaker, the Snow Dragon, so the passengers are instead being taken to an nice floe next to an Australian vessel which will eventually take them to Tasmania

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2532473/Long-awaited-rescue-5
2-passengers-trapped-research-ship-Antarctic-ice-week-finally-gets-underw
ay.html#ixzz2pKDB3vIY

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Ship: The rescue operation for the 74 passengers, comprising scientists, tourists and crew on the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy, has been plagued by one delay after another since the vessel became stuckShip: The rescue operation for the 74 passengers, comprising scientists, tourists and crew on the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy, has been plagued by one delay after another since the vessel became stuck
Still smiling: Stranded passengers shelter in a tent lashed to the ship's top deck as they sing a song they wrote, streaming live online to welcome in the new yearStill smiling: Stranded passengers shelter in a tent lashed to the ship’s top deck as they sing a song they wrote, streaming live online to welcome in the new year

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2532473/Long-awaited-|
rescue-52-passengers-trapped-research-ship-Antarctic-ice-week-fi
nally-gets-underway.html#ixzz2pKDkHHLj

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Aurora Australis
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Antarctic: Chinese, Australians Start Rescue of Iced-In Russian Research Ship

January 2, 2014

This helicopter from the Chinese icebreaker Xue Long is now shuttling people off the ice-trapped ship  Akademik Shokalskiy. Photograph: Laurence Topham

Rescue workers make their way from a helicopter to the Russian ship Akademik Shokalskiy, which has been trapped in Antarctic ice since Christmas Eve, at Commonwealth Bay in East Antarctica, 100 nautical miles (185 km) east of French Antarctic station Dumont D'Urville and about 1,500 nautical miles (2,800km) south of Australia's southern island state of Tasmania, in this still image taken from video shot by expedition leader Chris Turney, Professor of Climate Change at the University of New South Wales, on January 2, 2014. REUTERS-Chris Turney via youtube.com-user-christurney-videos-Handout via Reuters TV

Rescue workers make their way from a helicopter to the Russian ship Akademik Shokalskiy, which has been trapped in Antarctic ice since Christmas Eve, at Commonwealth Bay in East Antarctica, 100 nautical miles (185 km) east of French Antarctic station Dumont D’Urville and about 1,500 nautical miles (2,800km) south of Australia’s southern island state of Tasmania, in this still image taken from video shot by expedition leader Chris Turney, Professor of Climate Change at the University of New South Wales, on January 2, 2014. REUTERS/Chris Turney via youtube.com/user/christurney/videos/Handout via Reuters TV

A helicopter carrying rescue workers sent to evacuate the passengers of Russian ship Akademik Shokalskiy, which has been trapped in Antarctic ice since Christmas Eve, makes its way to the landing ground at Commonwealth Bay in East Antarctica, 100 nautical miles (185 km) east of French Antarctic station Dumont D'Urville and about 1,500 nautical miles (2,800km) south of Australia's southern island state of Tasmania, in this still image taken from video shot by expedition leader Chris Turney, Professor of Climate Change at the University of New South Wales, on January 2, 2014. REUTERS-Chris Turney- www.spiritofmawson.com-Handout via Reuters TV

A helicopter carrying rescue workers sent to evacuate the passengers of Russian ship Akademik Shokalskiy, which has been trapped in Antarctic ice since Christmas Eve, makes its way to the landing ground at Commonwealth Bay in East Antarctica, 100 nautical miles (185 km) east of French Antarctic station Dumont D’Urville and about 1,500 nautical miles (2,800km) south of Australia’s southern island state of Tasmania, in this still image taken from video shot by expedition leader Chris Turney, Professor of Climate Change at the University of New South Wales, on January 2, 2014. REUTERS/Chris Turney/ http://www.spiritofmawson.com/Handout via Reuters TV

The Xue Long (Snow Dragon) Chinese icebreaker, as seen from Australia's Antarctic supply ship, the Aurora Australis, sits in an ice pack unable to get through to the MV Akademik Shokalskiy, in East Antarctica, some 100 nautical miles (185 km) east of French Antarctic station Dumont D'Urville and about 1,500 nautical miles (2,800 km) south of Hobart, Tasmania, January 2, 2014, in this handout courtesy of Fairfax's Australian Antarctic Division. REUTERS-Fairfax-Australian Antarctic Division-Handout via Reuters
The Xue Long (Snow Dragon) Chinese icebreaker, as seen from Australia’s Antarctic supply ship, the Aurora Australis, sits in an ice pack unable to get through to the MV Akademik Shokalskiy, in East Antarctica, some 100 nautical miles (185 km) east of French Antarctic station Dumont D’Urville and about 1,500 nautical miles (2,800 km) south of Hobart, Tasmania, January 2, 2014, in this handout courtesy of Fairfax’s Australian Antarctic Division. REUTERS/Fairfax/Australian Antarctic Division/Handout via Reuters

 

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — A long-awaited rescue of passengers on board a research ship that has been trapped in Antarctic ice for more than a week finally got underway on Thursday, with a helicopter scooping up the first group of passengers and flying them to a nearby vessel, expedition leaders said.

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The MV Akademik Shokalskiy is  trapped in the ice at sea off Antarctica
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The research vessel Akademik Shokalskiy has been trapped for nearly a week with 74 scientists, tourists and crew.

The helicopter was originally going to airlift the passengers to a Chinese icebreaker, the Snow Dragon, with a barge then ferrying them to an Australian vessel. But sea ice was preventing a barge from reaching the Snow Dragon, and the Australian Maritime Safety Authority’s Rescue Coordination Centre, which is overseeing the rescue, said the operation would consequently be delayed.

A last-minute change in plans allowed the rescue to go ahead. The 52 scientists and tourists on board were instead being flown to an ice floe next to the Australian icebreaker the Aurora Australis, and then taken by a small boat to the Australian ship, expedition leader Chris Turney said. The maritime authority confirmed the first group arrived at the Aurora Thursday evening.

“I think everyone is relieved and excited to be going on to the Australian icebreaker and then home,” Turney told The Associated Press by satellite phone from the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalski, which has been stuck in the ice since Christmas Eve.

The helicopter will carry the passengers a dozen at a time in an operation expected to take five hours. All 22 crew members are planning to stay with their icebound vessel, which is not in danger.

The Aurora will carry the passengers to the Australian island state of Tasmania, arriving by mid-January.

In this Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013 image provided by Australasian …

In this Tuesday, Dec. 31, 2013 image provided by Australasian Antarctic Expedition/Footloose Fotogra …

The eagerly anticipated rescue came after days of failed attempts to reach the ship. Blinding snow, strong winds, fog and thick sea ice forced rescuers to turn back time and again.

Three icebreakers were initially dispatched to try and crack their way through the ice surrounding the vessel, but all failed. The Aurora came within 20 kilometers (12 miles) of the ship Monday, but fierce winds and snow forced it to retreat to open water.

The Akademik Shokalskiy, which left New Zealand on Nov. 28, got stuck after a blizzard pushed the sea ice around the ship, freezing it in place about 2,700 kilometers (1,700 miles) south of Hobart, Tasmania. The ship isn’t in danger of sinking and has weeks’ worth of supplies on board, but it cannot move.

The scientific team on board had been recreating Australian explorer Douglas Mawson’s 1911 to 1913 voyage to Antarctica. Turney had hoped to continue the trip if an icebreaker managed to free the ship.

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Associated Press writer Kristen Gelineau in Sydney contributed to this report.

Handout shows the Chinese Xue Long icebreaker, as seen from Australia's Antarctic supply ship, the Aurora Australis, sitting in an ice pack unable to get through to the MV Akademik Shokalskiy, in East Antarctica

Chinese icebreaker Xue Long as seen from Austalia’s  Aurora Australis

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Aurora Australis is Australia’s icebreaker
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Aurora Australis
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Eye Witness: Rescue for Antarctic ice-bound ship under threat — China’s Xue Long Icebreaker May Be “Stuck” — Confusion surrounds the fate of the rescue vessel

January 2, 2014

Snow showers and freezing winds not helpful to rescue planners…

The MV Akademik Shokalskiy is  trapped in the ice at sea off Antarctica
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The research vessel Akademik Shokalskiy has been trapped for nearly a week with 74 scientists, tourists and crew.
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Keeping themselves busy: Passengers from MV Akademik Shokalskiy walk around the ice in the AntarcticKeeping themselves busy: Passengers from MV Akademik Shokalskiy walk around the ice in the Antarctic

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An Adelie penguin near the MV Akademik Shokalskiy
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The ship is being used by the Australasian Antarctic Expedition

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A rescue mission for a ship trapped in ice in Antarctica is under threat as reports have emerged that one of the assisting vessels may itself be stuck.

Fifty-two passengers and four crew members were due to be evacuated by helicopter from China’s Xue Long ship as soon as conditions allowed.

However, the Xue Long has barely moved in a day and may be stuck in the ice.

The research vessel Akademik Shokalskiy has been trapped for nearly a week with 74 scientists, tourists and crew.

The ship is stocked with food and is in no danger, the team on board says.

The BBC’s Andrew Luck-Baker says confusion surrounds the fate of the rescue vessel

The planned air evacuation required that the two icebreakers in the immediate area – the Xue Long and the Australian Aurora Australis – be positioned close to each other in open water, clear of the pack ice.

However, the captain of the Xue Long has told the Shokalskiy that he is keeping his vessel in a “holding position”.

The Aurora Australis, is now understood to be planning to carve through the dense thick pack to assist the Xue Long.

The initial plan had been for a helicopter from the Xue Long to carry people in groups of 15 up from the pack ice next to the Shokalskiy.

China’s icebreaker  Xue Long

The airlifted passengers would then be transferred by a small boat, deployed from the Australian icebreaker, onto the Aurora Australis.

The expedition members would then have travelled to Australia’s Antarctic base at Casey some four days’ voyage away.

Continue reading the main story

The Return to Mawson’s Antarctica

However, if the Chinese vessel is also stuck and the Australian vessel cannot help it reach clear water, there will be no airlift.

Under the initial plan, the remaining crew members would have stayed on board until another, more powerful US icebreaker arrived in up to 10 days’ time, the BBC’s Andrew Luck-Baker reports from on board the Akademik Shokalskiy

However, it may now be that all of those on board may have to wait for the US icebreaker, the Polar Star, he adds.

The approximate location of the Akademik Shokalskiy

Earlier attempts by Chinese and French icebreakers to reach the ship were also foiled by the thick ice.

The Shokalskiy was trapped on Christmas Eve by thick sheets of ice, driven by strong winds, about 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart – the capital of the Australian state of Tasmania.

A helicopter from the Chinese icebreaker Xue Long runs reconnaissance over the Akademik Shokalskiy. Photograph: Laurence Topham

Stuck: Passengers from the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy link arms and stamp out a helicopter landing site on the ice near the trapped ship 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia

Stuck: Passengers from the Russian ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy link arms and stamp out a helicopter landing site on the ice near the trapped ship 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Australia
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2532473/Latest-
attempt-rescue-passengers-stuck-Antarctic-ice-week-delayed-again.html#ixzz2pDi8o8yd

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Still smiling: Stranded passengers shelter in a tent lashed to the ship's top deck as they sing a song they wrote, streaming live online to welcome in the new yearStill smiling: Stranded passengers shelter in a tent lashed to the ship’s top deck as they sing a song they wrote, streaming live online to welcome in the new year

 

Trapped for more than a week: Ben Maddison and Ben Fisk from MV Akademik Shokalskiy work to place a wind indicator atop an ice feature near the trapped shipTrapped for more than a week: Ben Maddison and Ben Fisk from MV Akademik Shokalskiy work to place a wind indicator atop an ice feature near the trapped ship

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2532473/Latest-attempt-resc
ue-passengers-stuck-Antarctic-ice-week-delayed-again.html#ixzz2pDiKzRrx

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