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6 Russian boaters safe after Bering Strait ordeal

August 8, 1999
Web posted at: 11:19 p.m. EDT (0319 GMT)

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Six Russian Eskimos who disappeared during a Bering Strait voyage from an Alaska Eskimo village were safe Monday, the Coast Guard said.

Two of the boaters were hospitalized after the rescue, but were recovering, said Coast Guard Lt. Commander Brian Flory.

Russian officials informed the Coast Guard that "They're all safe and OK," Flory said.

The six were among a group of 37 boaters who departed Gambell, a Siberian Yupik Eskimo village on Alaska's St. Lawrence Island, for Provideniya, a city on eastern Russia's Chukotka Peninsula.

Most were Siberian Yupiks who had been in Gambell visiting relatives and stocking up on supplies for the coming winter.

Their small skiffs were overloaded, according to reports from Gambell and the Coast Guard, and none of the boaters had flotation devices.

The 65-mile trip usually takes a few hours, but the flotilla of 14 skiffs used in the journey ran into bad weather.

Two of the skiffs overturned during the journey, and two people on one of the small boats drowned, the Coast Guard said.

The three people on the other skiff were rescued by their fellow boaters, the Coast Guard said.

The Coast Guard, after searching the U.S. side of the Bering Strait by air for the missing skiffs, spotted two of them, carrying four of the missing boaters, late Saturday, Flory said.

The two others were spotted a short time later by a Russian ship.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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