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CNN Today

Nearly 1,000 Russians Saved in Ice Rescue

Aired February 28, 2000 - 2:19 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: In Russia, hundreds of ice fishermen are a bit shaken up today after they were pulled off drifting chunk of ice in Europe's largest lake. CNN's Matthew Chance reports on this massive rescue.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What started out as a winter fishing trip became a struggle for survival for nearly 1,000 Russians. As giant pieces of ice broke away from the shores of Lake Ladaga, the fishermen were left helpless and drifted away from land, some clinging on as the ice cracked beneath them.

"It was," they say, "a traumatic ordeal."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): We were all sitting there fishing and suddenly my fishing line went horizontal. Everyone made a break for the shore, but when we got there, it was already pointless. One man jumped for it and drowned. We pulled two more out of the water.

CHANCE: Some drifted 14 kilometers, or eight miles, before being rescued, helicopters and search teams picking terrified fishermen off the ice. Reports from the ground spoke of several deaths. In one incident, a rescue boat loaded with panic-stricken fishermen reportedly capsized in these icy waters near the Russian city of St. Petersburg. Locals say 20 cars crashed through the ice.

Ice fishing is one of Russia's most popular winter sports, but when the ice begins its annual thaw, hundreds are regularly stranded, often drifting out to sea before they can be reached. But this time, more than 900 people were brought safely in from the cold.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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