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Russia rescues 536 fishermen stranded on giant ice floe

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Russian fishermen are rescued from an ice floe off the coast of Sakhalin, an island off Russia's southeast coast, January 28, 2020. Russia Emergency Situations Ministry

In a nearly seven-hour operation, Russia's emergency services rescued 536 ice fishermen after they got stranded on a giant ice floe that broke off the island of Sakhalin in eastern Siberia, officials said.

Around 60 more people were able to get back onto the shore on their own Tuesday evening, emergency officials said.

Footage of the incident showed groups of people using smaller pieces of ice as rafts, trying to row to the Russian coast as the giant ice floe with the stranded fishermen slowly drifted further away from the land. Russian state television said others, on the larger piece of ice, simply continued fishing.

According to some of the Russian fishermen, by the time they had been rescued the frigid water rift between the ice floe and the coast was already 660 feet wide. State-run TV said all the rescued fishermen declined any help from doctors.

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Russian fishermen are seen stranded on giant ice floe (at left) off the coast of Sakhalin, an island off Russia's southeast coast, January 28, 2020. Russia Emergency Situations Ministry

It's the third time in a week that emergency services in the Sakhalin region had to rescue ice fishermen stuck on drifting glacial masses. On Jan. 22, around 300 people got stranded on an ice floe and on Sunday 600 others did.

Local authorities blamed the fishermen for ignoring safety warnings and going ice fishing despite the danger of being stranded on ice floes.

Tragedy was averted, and according to Russian TV, the fishermen even managed to bring their catch with them onto the rescue boats.

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