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article imageSearch continues for Russian helicopter missing in Arctic

By AFP     Oct 27, 2017 in World

Emergency services on Friday continued to search for a Russian helicopter that went down with eight people on board off the coast of Norway's Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic, Norwegian rescue crews said.

Norwegian authorities said Russia would join the search, calling it "a race against time" to find any survivors as chances dwindled with the cold temperatures.

Temperatures in the region hover around 0 degrees Celsius (32 degrees Fahrenheit) this time of year and searches become more difficult because of the twilight that lasts much of the day.

Russia said it was sending a transport plane with personnel and supplies, which is due to arrive in the afternoon.

Since Thursday, a sea patrol plane, a Danish aircraft, two Norwegian helicopters and several vessels have been searching the area.

A small robot submarine was deployed overnight to investigate an area where an oil patch and bubbles were observed, but "it hasn't yielded any results yet," the head of the rescue operation Tore Hongset said.

The aircraft went down off Norway's Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic
The aircraft went down off Norway's Svalbard archipelago in the Arctic

Rescuers asked for a second, more suitable, robot from the Norwegian army to be deployed.

The aircraft, a Russian Mil Mi-8, went down in the afternoon two or three kilometres from Barentsburg, a Russian mining community in the archipelago.

Its eight occupants, five crew and three scientists, were all Russian nationals.

"The chances of finding people alive fade considerably over time," Hongset said.

"But we're continuing. This morning, we're maintaining our search for possible survivors, who could be on a floating object such as a survival raft."

Norway was afforded sovereignty of Svalbard, located around 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) from the North Pole, under the 1920 Treaty of Paris.

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

As a result, Russia operates a coal mine in Barentsburg, a community home to several hundred Russian and Ukrainian miners.

In 2008, another Mil Mi-8 crashed near Barentsburg, killing three of its nine occupants. Yet another crash near Pyramiden of the same type of helicopter left two dead in 1991.

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