Beachgoers stranded on Latvia ice floes

Latvian journalist Torms Pastors says anglers often go on the ice in spring

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Two ice floes drifted off the Latvian coast on Friday, trapping 220 people at sea for much of the afternoon.

Emergency boats and helicopters quickly reached the scene in the Gulf of Riga, in an operation to rescue the stranded group of ice anglers and families.

One of the floes broke away at one of Riga's most popular beaches, and another a few miles down the coast.

A man trapped on the ice floe said there had been no panic and people had boarded boats to return to safety.

About 180 people had been enjoying the Good Friday public holiday at Vakarbulli beach, when winds and high waves sent the stretch of ice they were on away from the shore into the Gulf of Riga.

Many of them had been ice fishing at the time.

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"People feel OK," Dmitry Belyaev told Radio Baltkom. "After the ice floe broke off we contacted rescuers immediately. Half an hour later the rescue boats arrived."

A second ice floe broke away from the beach at Majori, leaving 41 people stranded.

The ice had drifted about 4km (2.5 miles) from the shore, Latvia's Mixnews website said, before rescue services were able to reach the scene.

No serious injuries were reported.

Latvia's VUGD rescue service warned earlier this week of the danger of ice floes being pushed out to sea, because of high winds and the start of the spring thaw.

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