Ilmars Znotins/AFP/Getty Images
Latvian fishermen were among those rescued from ice floe in Riga on Friday.
Latvian fishermen were among those rescued from ice floe in Riga on Friday. Ilmars Znotins/AFP/Getty Images
More than 200 Latvians were rescued by helicopters and Navy ships after suddenly finding themselves adrift on ice floes that were broken off and swept out to sea.
The rescue of 219 people from two ice floes in the Gulf of Riga on Friday was hampered by bad weather and high waves, according to Latvian police and fire officials quoted by Russia Today, or RT.com:
"There were 180 people on an ice floe near Vakarbulli beach, and another 39 on one near Majori beach. Initial reports suggested that there were over 500 people on both ice floes.
"One of the ice floes was washed as far as 4 kilometers away from shore. At one point it could not be reached by rescue boats, so the operation was continued by helicopter."
RT says the winds were very strong and most of the rescue boats were suitable only for rescue operations, complicating the effort to get people to safety.
CNN quotes oil company manager Kaspars Skrabans as saying he was "down at the beach by Jurmala with his family when he noticed that a crack had appeared in the ice extending from the shore out into the gulf."
"He realized that nearly 50 people were on the ice that had become separated from the shore and being blown out to sea by the prevailing wind.
"Some people were likely there to enjoy a walk on a sunny day, he told CNN, while others were ice fishers."
News reports say this type of incident is not uncommon in the Baltic region, according to RT:
"A similar incident occurred in Russia's Kaliningrad region, the country's most western territory, where 80 fishermen had to be rescued from a drifting ice floe as it washed away one kilometer off shore."