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Russian arctic castaways await rescue

Airlift imminent for beleaguered boffins

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The 12 Russian scientists stranded in the arctic after most of their base sank into the Greenland Sea should be rescued within 48 hours.

A Russian helicopter left Archangel this morning en-route to Spitzbergen where it will refuel for the final dash to the base, 700-odd km to the north-west, the BBC reports.

North Pole-32 succumbed to the waves after the ice on which it stood drifted too far south and began to break up. Suddenly, on Wednesday afternoon, four of the base's six buildings were sucked beneath the waves. Fortunately, all the inhabitants survived unscathed.

Weather conditions are reported favourable for the rescue, and station boss Vladimir Koshelyev told Russian station NTV television that spirits are high.

"We have sleeping spaces, we have heat going, we can live here, we have warm food ready," he said. "All the researchers are in a good mood, everything is alright."

Should anything delay the airlift, the beleagured boffins have supplies for about another five days. ®

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