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Russian fuel tanker reaches Alaskan town bound by ice

From Maria P. White, CNN
updated 5:09 AM EST, Sun January 15, 2012
BERING SEA — The Russian-flagged tanker Renda, carrying more than 1.3 million gallons of fuel, sits in the ice while the Coast Guard Cutter Healy crew breaks the ice around the tanker approximately 19 miles northwest of Nunivak Island Jan. 6, 2012. The cutter Healy crew is escorting the Renda crew to Nome, Alaska, where the tanker crew will offload the needed fuel to the city. U.S. Coast Guard photo by cutter Healy.
BERING SEA — The Russian-flagged tanker Renda, carrying more than 1.3 million gallons of fuel, sits in the ice while the Coast Guard Cutter Healy crew breaks the ice around the tanker approximately 19 miles northwest of Nunivak Island Jan. 6, 2012. The cutter Healy crew is escorting the Renda crew to Nome, Alaska, where the tanker crew will offload the needed fuel to the city. U.S. Coast Guard photo by cutter Healy.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • It is the first-ever attempt to supply fuel to an Arctic Alaska town through sea ice
  • The Renda made its way through icy water carrying 1.3 million gallons of petroleum products
  • Nome, Alaska, has enough fuel to last until about March

(CNN) -- A Russian tanker carrying fuel arrived in the Alaskan town of Nome on Saturday night, the Coast Guard said, as officials started preparations on delivering the much-needed supplies.

U.S Coast Guard ice breaker Cutter Healy accompanied the fuel tanker Renda as it made its way through the frozen waters carrying 1.3 million gallons of petroleum products.

"The first step is to ensure the ice is safe for the personnel to walk on," said Chief Petty Officer Kip Wadlow. "Then they will work to connect the piping and check for leaks. Safety is our primary concern."

The cutter has broken through almost 300 miles of ice for the tanker on a journey that took them through southern Alaska's Aleutian Islands.

Tanker nears Alaska town buried in snow

The voyage is the first-ever attempt to supply fuel to an Arctic Alaska settlement through sea ice.

A company in Nome contracted the Renda to deliver the fuel after ice formed over the Bering Sea following a ferocious November storm that prevented the last delivery of the season via barge.

The Coast Guard urged Nome residents not to go out on the ice to watch the operations, saying the behavior of the ice is unpredictable and ice conditions could change.

Nome is not in immediate danger of running out of fuel, said Coast Guard Capt. Craig Lloyd, who is coordinating the mission.

The town has enough fuel to last until about March, but the delivery was attempted now because it would have been more difficult then, he said.

Officials considered flying in fuel, but it would have taken more than 300 flights, each carrying 4,000 to 5,000 gallons, to meet the town's needs, said Jason Evans, chairman of Sitnasuak Native Corp.

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