Over 100 rescued, one killed in US ice floe accident

February 8th, 2009 - 11:40 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 8 (Xinhua) About 134 people have been rescued and one killed after hundreds of fishermen stuck Saturday on a large ice floe floating away from the Ohio shoreline of Lake Erie, the US Coast Guard said.
“So far 134 people have been rescued and one person deceased,” Matthew Schofield, a public affairs officer of the ninth Coast Guard District which oversees the region, told Xinhua over telephone.

But authorities has no information on how many people had been stranded, he said, adding some of them may have managed to get out on their own.

The rescue operation is still underway, until “everybody is accounted for”, said Schofield.

Earlier, the Coast Guard headquarters in Washington said in a written statement that multiple state and local agencies are involved in the rescue operation in western Lake Erie near Oak Harbor, Ohio and the call for help came into the Coast Guard at approximately 11:45 a.m. eastern time.

“We don’t know why the people were on the ice,” said Lt. David French, a spokesman for Coast Guard.

“Right now our primary goal is to safely remove all the people from the ice floe,” he said.

The Coast Guard statement said approximately 300 to 500 people are reported to be on the ice flow, but Fox News report quoted local authorities as saying that the number of those trapped are between 175 to 300.

As of 1:25 p.m. eastern time, 35 people have been safely removed from the ice floe, it said.

But CNN quoted local authorities as saying that one person has been confirmed dead in the incident.

The ice floe, 13 km long, was created when a large piece of ice broke off from land near Locust Point, Ohio, east of Toledo, Coast Guard spokesman Robert Lanier was quoted by CNN as saying.

Helicopters, hovercrafts and airboats were used in the rescue efforts, he said.

The National Weather Service issued a warning Saturday that ice floes could break away from the main ice area in the western section of Lake Erie.

Local TV network WTOL reported that those trapped went out on the ice in the morning as people had laid planks over the cracks in the ice.

But then the wind changed, and that ice they were on started drifting away.

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