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Russian cargo ship 'in danger of sinking'

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Refrigerator vessel Smolninsky listing on its left side in Sea of Okhotsk
  • Ship buffeted by 8-meter waves, strong winds; 30 crew members aboard
  • Vessel is about 145 kilometers from an oil rig where rescue vessels based

A Russian cargo ship with about 30 crew members aboard was in danger of sinking off Russia's eastern coast while stormy weather interfered with rescue efforts, state-run Itar-Tass news agency said Friday.

The refrigerator vessel, the Smolninsky, was listing on its left side in the Sea of Okhotsk, where it was being buffeted by 8-meter (26-foot) waves and wind up to 30 meters a second (65 mph), the agency said on its Web site.

Ice had formed on the outside of the ship, and the crew was chipping it off, the agency said. The crew sent out a distress signal, but there was no explanation of the problem. Because of the severe weather, aircraft can't be used to rescue the crew, the agency said.

According to Itar-Tass, the vessel is about 145 kilometers (90 miles) from an oil rig where rescue vessels are based, while a tugboat dispatched from land was still about four times farther away. The ship is about 220 km (135 miles) from the Island of Sakhalin, north of Japan.

The Smolninsky had been en route to a fishing area when it experienced problems, the news agency reported. The ship hauls fish from boats to ports.