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Wreckage Of Russian Helicopter Lost In Arctic With Eight Aboard Possibly Found


The helicopter was on its way to Barentsburg, a Russian mining community in the Arctic Svalberd archipelago. (file photo)

Norwegian rescuers believe they may have located the sunken wreckage of a Russian helicopter that went missing on October 26 with eight people aboard off the coast of the Arctic Svalbard archipelago, Reuters reported.

"We've found oil spills and air bubbles rising to the surface, and a vessel in the area has observed what appears to be a submerged object. It may be the helicopter," Tore Hongset, the leader of Norway's rescue coordination center, told Reuters.

A remotely operated mini-submarine was being flown to the site and would likely be deployed on October 27 to help verify whether it is the helicopter, he said.

Meanwhile, the search for survivors among the eight Russian crew and passengers on board the aircraft continued, though Norwegian rescue officials said their chances or survival had rapidly faded due to the frigid air and water conditions.

Russia's emergency ministry said the five crew and three passengers were Russians. The Russian-made Mil Mi-8 aircraft had been reported missing around 3:35 p.m.

Hongset told Norwegian television that rescuers were in a "race against the clock."

"Time is passing and the risk of hypothermia and death is increasing," he said.

The chopper went down two or three kilometers from Barentsburg, a Russian mining community in the archipelago, the rescue services said.

No contact had been made with the aircraft before it went down.

Two Norwegian helicopters and several rescue vessels were dispatched to the area.

Russia's consul general in Svalbard, Viacheslav Nikolayev, told the Interfax news agency there were five crew members and three scientists on board.

"It's a civilian helicopter that...flies the miners between (Svalbard's main town of) Longyearbyen and Barentsburg," he said.

Norway was afforded sovereignty over Svalbard, located around 1,000 kilometers from the North Pole, under the 1920 Treaty of Paris.

But nationals of all signatory states enjoy "equal liberty of access and entry" to Svalbard and its waters.

Under the provisions of the treaty, Russia operates a coal mine in Barentsburg, which is home to several hundred Russian and Ukrainian miners.

In 2008, another Mil Mi-8 crashed near Barentsburg, killing three of its nine occupants.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and Interfax
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