A Russian helicopter with 8 people on board on Thursday crashed into the sea a few kilometers from Barensburg, the second-largest settlement on the Svalbard archipelago, the northern Norway rescue service reported.
"A Russian helicopter, 8 people on board, fell into the sea two or three kilometers from Barensburg. The rescue service in northern Norway is coordinating the rescue operation, details have not been not disclosed," the rescue service said in its Twitter blog.
Et russisk helikopter med 8 personer om bord har gått ned i havet 2-3 km fra Barentsburg. HRS NN koordinerer og vil komme med mer info.— HRS Nord-Norge (@HRSNordNorge) 26 октября 2017 г.
Russian Emergencies Ministry confirmed that 8 people on board of the Russian Mil Mi-8 helicopter were Russian citizens, among them were three scientists from Russia's Arctic Research Institut.
Rescue Service spokesman Tore Hongset told VG that two rescue boats and a helicopter were sent to the scene. According to him, a rescue operation is underway, however, there is a bad visibility. The helicopter has not been detected yet and the fate of the people on board is still unclear. Russian Emergencies Ministry assumes that the helicopter may have carried out emergency landing.
The Svalbard archipelago is located in the Arctic Ocean. Spitsbergen is the largest and only permanently populated island of the archipelago. Under the Svalbard Treaty signed in 1920, Norway was granted the full sovereignty over the group of islands, however, all countries that signed the Treaty are granted non-discriminatory rights for commercial activities on the territory. There is a Russian settlement where Russian coal mining company operates.