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More than a dozen fishermen are missing and feared dead after a trawler capsized during a storm and sank into freezing waters.
A total of seventeen sea-workers have been lost at sea after their Russian vessel sank in the Barents Sea in arctic conditions.
Only two people had been pulled from the waves and saved by a passing shop as hopes faded of any other survivors.
A source told the Moscow Times : “A person cannot last for more than 15 minutes in these conditions.”
Officials believe that ice built up on the boat in winter waters lead to the sinking during a snowstorm on Monday.
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin offered his condolences to families as he confirmed fatalities.
He said: “A tragedy struck today in the Barents Sea. People died.”
A search and rescue operation is underway but hazardous conditions are causing havoc in locating a wreck or bodies.
Alexie Barinov, a spokesman for the emergencies ministry, said: “There is a heavy snowstorm, waves are up to four meters high and temperatures are at around 20-25 degrees Celsius below zero. We are hoping for a New Year's miracle.”
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The privately-owned boat, called Onega, sank near the Novaya Zemlya archipelago in the Barents Sea in the early hours.
Ten minutes later two survivors were pulled from the water by a passing ship.
Alexei Kravchenko, a spokesman for the maritime and river transport agency Rosmorrechflot, said tragedy struck as the crew was hauling our a net.
The boat instantly capsized, he said, as three ships and a patrol plane were dispatched to find the crew.
No bodies have been found as of yet, reports in Russia suggest.
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