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Chinese ship in Antarctica rescue stuck in ice

By Jethro Mullen and Susanna Capelouto, CNN
updated 8:00 PM EST, Fri January 3, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Xue Long icebreaker is beset by ice and can't move
  • Chinese ship's helicopter helped rescue 52 passengers Thursday
  • Xue Long's captain says no assistance is needed and vessel will try to break free
  • Australian icebreaker carrying the rescued people chugs toward base

(CNN) -- The Chinese icebreaker that sent out a helicopter on Thursday to airlift dozens of passengers from a ship stuck in the Antarctic ice is now beset by ice and unable to move, according to Australian Maritime Safety Agency (AMSA).

The captain of the Xue Long told AMSA that his ship is safe, has plenty of food and supplies and will not need assistance at this time.

The Australian icebreaker, the Aurora Australis, which is carrying the rescued passengers, was placed on standby in case the Xue Long needs help. But the captains of both the Xue Long and the Russian-flagged MV Akadmik Shokalskiy agreed they no longer need the Aurora Australis.

They said they will be able to provide mutual support to each other.

AMSA released the Aurora Australis from search and rescue and the vessel now continues to make its passage with the freed passengers to the Casey base to complete a resupply.

The Chinese ship plans to try to get out of the thick ice early Saturday at a point when tidal conditions are most favorable, according to AMSA.

The Chinese vessel's struggle comes the day after its helicopter ferried all 52 passengers from an ice-locked Akadmik Shokalskiy to the Aurora Australis.

The Akademik Shokalskiy had been trapped in unusually deep ice since Christmas Eve with scientists, journalists, tourists and crew members on board.

The rescued passengers, most of them Australians, will still have a lengthy wait before they return home. Officials say they estimate the Aurora Australis will get the group back to the Australian mainland by mid-January.

The 22 Russian crew members remain on the Akademik Shokalskiy, waiting for the ice to shift and allow the ship to break free.

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