Approximite destination of Sparta.A Russian fishing boat is trapped in heavy sea ice near Antarctica and its crew has moved to lifeboats. The ship is in danger of cracking and sinking so the crew evacuated the ship. It has reported a hole in its hull beneath the water line.

The next icebreaker is days away and no helicopters are near the ship. A number of ships are on their way to rescue the ship.

"However, the closest ones are hampered by heavy ice, making vessel movement very difficult. The closest vessel which can cut through the ice is several days away," Rescue co-ordinator Tracy Brickles said.

The Sparta is holed beneath the waterline and stuck in heavy sea ice, about 2,000 nautical miles (3,704km) south-east of New Zealand.

A military plane spent about an hour above the ship but could not land to rescue the crew.

The crew of 32 has immersion suits on. The crew comprises 15 Russians (including the captain), 16 Indonesians and a Ukrainian, AFP news agency reported.

They were throwing cargo overboard to lighten the ship, and some had boarded lifeboats as a precaution, the RCCNZ said.

Remaining crew are pumping water out of the ship and had attached a tarpaulin over the outside of the hole in an attempt to keep the water out, it said. They had requested that additional pumps be sent to help.

The ice surrounding the ship is estimated to be up to 1.5m thick.

Click here to see images of the ship from BBC.

Sources: BBC, AFP, UPI, ITAR-Tass, RCCNZ.

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