Antarctic ship passengers to be evacuated by Chinese helicopter: Russia

 Antarctic ship passengers to be evacuated by Chinese helicopter: Russia
This image taken by passenger Andrew Peacock of on December 30, 2013 shows the ship MV Akademik Shokalskiy (C) still stuck in the ice off East Antarctica, as it waits to be rescued. An Australian icebreaker was on December 30 battling against bad weather to reach a ship carrying a scientific expedition stranded off Antarctica, leaving open the possibility of a helicopter evacuation, authorities said.

MOSCOW - Russia said on Monday that most of the passengers and some of the crew stranded on a scientific expedition ship off Antarctica will be evacuated by a Chinese helicopter should the weather allow.

"A decision has been reached to evacuate 52 passngers and four crew members by helicopter from China's Xue Long ship, should the weather allow," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.

The Russian-flagged MV Akademik Shokalskiy has been stuck on an ice field since last week with 74 people on board. The multinational passenger list includes scientists as well as tourists and crew.

Snow gusts that severely hampered visibility on Monday forced back an Australian icebreaker struggling to reach the scientific expedition ship.

Thick ice had earlier prevented both the Xue Long and a French icebreaker from reaching the stranded crew.

The Moscow ministry's statement said its diplomats in Australia had received assurances from the MV Akademik Shokalskiy's Russian captain that everybody on board the ship was safe.

"According to (the captain), all the crew and other members of the expedition are in good health," the Russian ministry statement said.

"Neither their lives nor safety are under threat."

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