Official: Rescuers Reach Stranded Russian Ship

By: David Nowak & Vladimir Isachenkov - AP Writer
By: David Nowak & Vladimir Isachenkov - AP Writer

MOSCOW (AP) - A rescue ship reached a Russian cargo vessel stranded in icy waters off eastern Russia with 31 crew members aboard and prepared to escort it to safety, officials said Saturday.

The Smolninsky refrigerated ship was battered by heavy winds Friday and listed dangerously to its port side in the Sea of Okhotsk, which separates Russia's Kamchatka peninsula from the mainland, according to a search and rescue center on nearby Sakhalin Island.

The Smolninsky's captain sent a distress call Friday morning, and authorities directed several nearby vessels to head to the area and save the ship's all-Russian crew.

The Sakhalin rescue center's spokesman, Nikolai Ivanov, said a rescue ship that belongs to the Sakhalin Energy company was the first to reach the Smolninsky and was helping stabilize its position.

The Smolninsky managed to restart its main engine and was trying to reduce the degree of tilt, Ivanov said in a telephone interview. Once it's done, the rescue vessel will escort the Smolninsky to safer waters closer to the shore.

Heavy winds in the area have eased and the weather is expected to further improve later Saturday, Ivanov said. "The situation has stabilized," he added.

Several rescue helicopters are ready to assist once the weather improves, he said.

The Smolninsky collects fresh fish from local boats and delivers the catch to local ports, cleaning, processing and canning much of the produce en route.

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