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Russian ship repaired and freed from Antarctic ice

MYT 11:00:01 AM

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - A Russian fishing vessel with a damaged hull trapped in Antarctica for nearly two weeks has been patched up and freed from pack ice, New Zealand rescue authorities said Wednesday.

The 48-metre (157-feet) Sparta, with a crew of 32, had been anchored to the Antarctic ice shelf around 2,000 nautical miles (3,700 km) southeast of New Zealand after ice ripped a hole in its hull and it started taking on water on Dec 15.

The New Zealand airforce made two air drops of equipment and material to help the crew make temporary repairs and pump water out of the vessel.

"The Korean ice breaker Araon will escort Sparta and open an ice lane to allow both vessels to make their way from the ice shelf," said Tracy Brickles of New Zealand's rescue co-ordination centre (RCC).

She said the Sparta, which had a crew of 15 Russians, 16 Indonesians and a Ukrainian, would meet its sister ship in open water, although it is not known where their next destination will be.

The RCC said a small amount of light hydraulic oil appears to have escaped around the tear in the hull, but there have been no signs of any heavy fuel oil having leaked.

(Reporting by Gyles Beckford; Editing by Ed Davies)

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