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675 rescued from ice floe off Sakhalin Island

More than 600 anglers stranded on an ice floe in the Russian far east have been rescued. The operation to airlift them off the ice involved 48 people, two helicopters and 11 ships, the emergencies ministry said.

The 675 fishing enthusiasts were carried out to sea when the floe, off the island of Sakhalin, broke free.

Fishing through bore-holes on ice-bound waters is a popular winter pastime in Russia.

None of the rescued anglers airlifted off the ice floe needed medical assistance, the ministry said in a statement.

The ice floe had drifted 500m away from the coast before running aground again.

'Excitement'

Taymuraz Kasayev, of the emergencies ministry, said the area's residents had been told to stay away from the ice.

"We warned people through the media that going out on to the ice on this stretch of the coastline is extremely dangerous and is not allowed," he told the NTV television channel.

One of the rescued anglers, Vladimir Vasilenko, said he had ventured on to the ice floe knowing that the windy conditions might pose a risk.

"The wind was blowing from the shore, and it was clear that something might happen, but people were still going out, so we did too," he said.

"It was the excitement, of course. We also heard on the radio that it would be the last chance for fishing on the ice. And so we rushed out to go fishing."

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