200 fishermen rescued from drifting ice in Minnesota lake

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Around 200 fishermen had to be rescued after they found themselves on drifting ice in a lake in Minnesota.

One of the people in the group called the emergency services after seeing the block of ice holding people ice fishing breaking free, leading to a complex rescue effort, according to AFP.

Local police said on Facebook that the sheet of ice was leaving the shoreline of Upper Red Lake in northern Minnesota, which is known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

Chief Deputy Jarrett Walton said in a statement that “the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office and other first responders arrived on scene and discovered a large portion of the ice with up to 30 yards (27 meters) of open water stranding the fishermen”.

Some of the fisherman were unaware that the slab of ice was on the move.

“Due to the urgent nature of getting people off the ice,” the county sent an alert to the fishermen’s phones to tell them that a rescue effort was about to take place.

Law enforcement said that the alerts “allowed notifications to be sent to cell phones of those who are not enrolled in the local notification system and provided GPS coordinates of the evacuation site”.

The evacuation took more than three hours from start to finish.

“A number of apparatus were deployed including airboats, water rescue boats, ATVs, drones and a temporary bridge,” the sheriff’s office added.

The department told fishermen to use “extreme caution” when on unsteady ice.

“The Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office reminds those who are thinking of heading on the ice that early season ice is very unpredictable,” the office said.

According to the StarTribune, the gap in the ice on Monday morning started as a small crack and then grew to almost 100 feet.

The authorities responded by 11.30am. The temporary bridge was the main way for the fishermen to get back on solid ground.

The owner of JR’s Corner Access resort, which supplied the bridge, told the local paper that “breakers and cracks are just part of our every day”.

“This one just got a little wider but it was a super chill, calm situation. There was no panic. Nobody got hurt,” Adam Studniski added. “Everyone just wanted to stay fishing.”

All of the fishermen had been rescued by 2.40pm, the sheriff’s office said.

The owner of North Woods Fish Houses, Shane Youngbauer, told the StarTribune that business operators in the area had been following a crack in the ice since Thursday.

“We had a pretty big crack open up east to west,” he told the paper. “This blew open with the south wind today.”

He added that Upper Red Lake is one of the first lakes in the state to open for ice fishing.

“It’s such a shallow lake that it freezes right away,” he told the paper.

“Fish don’t bite anywhere else like to they do on Red Lake,” Mr Studniski added.

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