Russia bids to free 500 trapped by ice in Okhotsk sea

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Two Russian icebreakers are working to reach more than 500 people stranded on ships in the Sea of Okhotsk, off Russia's far eastern coast.

Three ships have been trapped since Friday in ice up to 2m (6.5ft) thick.

Officials say they are confident the three ships will be freed with the arrival of the second, bigger icebreaker.

But they are working first to rescue another trawler moving dangerously close to the coast.

The trawler, Mys Yelizavety, is being pushed by drifting ice less than 1km from the shore, with 78 people on board.

A fifth vessel - a trawler with a crew of 25 people - also became trapped on Monday.

The crew of the first three ships - a fishing boat, a refrigerated freighter and a scientific research vessel - have enough fuel, food and water to last several weeks and are not thought to be in any immediate danger.

The BBC's Steve Rosenberg in Moscow says navigation in the area has been made particularly difficult this winter by the thick ice, strong winds and heavy snowstorms.

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