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More than 220 rescued from ice floes off Latvian coast

From Alvis Eglitis, for CNN
March 29, 2013 -- Updated 2121 GMT (0521 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: A man who first refused help is taken safely back to shore, a report says
  • Two ice floes break off from the Latvian coast and are blown into the Gulf of Riga
  • Helicopters and boats carry more than 220 people to safety, emergency officials say
  • A crack appeared in ice that had been attached to the shore, a journalist at the scene says

(CNN) -- More than 220 people have been rescued after two ice floes broke off from the Latvian coast and were blown into the Gulf of Riga, Latvian emergency services said Friday.

All 181 people on the larger floe near the capital city of Riga were removed by boat, and 42 people were rescued by helicopter from the smaller floe off the coast of Jurmala, a nearby seaside resort town.

One person remained for some time on the floe off Jurmala because he refused to be rescued by helicopter, emergency officials said.

That man told authorities he was waiting for a friend to pick him up in a plastic boat, according to the Baltic News Service. Eventually, rescuers helped both the stranded man and his friend on the boat return safely to shore.

The same report said that, once the rescue operation ended around 4:30 p.m. (10:30 a.m. ET), one person was treated for possible frostbite.

The fire service earlier said that rough seas were complicating the rescue efforts by the Fire and Rescue Service, National Border Guard, Coast Guard and military officials.

Oil company manager Kaspars Skrabans said he was down at the beach by Jurmala with his family when he noticed that a crack had appeared in the ice extending from the shore out into the gulf.

He realized that nearly 50 people were on the ice that had become separated from the shore and being blown out to sea by the prevailing wind.

Some people were likely there to enjoy a walk on a sunny day, he told CNN, while others were ice fishers.

Temperatures were above freezing Friday in Riga, CNN forecaster Mari Ramos said. Ice is more likely to break off from shore as temperatures rise in spring.

CNN's Lonzo Cook and journalist Karlis Rokis contributed to this report.

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