Russian helicopter with eight on board crashes off Arctic archipelago
A Russian helicopter with eight people on board has fallen into the sea off Svalbard, an Arctic archipelago that belongs to Norway, rescue officials said.
The rescue service for northern Norway said the helicopter was en route to Barentsburg, Svalbard's second largest settlement, from the Russian settlement of Pyramiden.
"We have found oil on the water but no wreck," said Olav Bjoergaas, a spokesman for the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centres for northern Norway.
He added that there was poor visibility and heavy snowfall in the region.
Svalbard is more than 500 miles north of Norway's mainland. It is known for stunning views of snow-covered mountains, fjords and glaciers.
The rescue service said the helicopter went down less than two miles from Barentsburg.
The aircraft was a Russian Mili Mi-8 belonging to Russian charter company Konvers Avia.
Russian state news agencies Tass and RIA Novosti cited company deputy director Dmitry Zhelyazkov as saying there were eight people aboard - three pilots and five passengers.
Tore Hongset, another spokesman for the rescue co-ordination centre, told Norwegian news agency NTB that it did not receive any mayday signal from the helicopter.
"As far as we have heard, we are talking about a crash," Mr Hongset said.
Several units, including two helicopters from the local Svalbard governor and ships from the coastguard and local fishermen were at the presumed crash site, Mr Bjoergaas said. Local hospitals were on high alert.
In March 2008, three people were killed after a Russian Mi-8 helicopter with nine people on board crashed about two miles from Barentsburg.