Russian with eight on board crashes near Norway

The chopper went down two to three km off the Arctic coal mining port of Barentsburg.

A Russian helicopter with eight people on board crashed into the sea near Norway’s Svalbard archipelago on Thursday. The Norwegian Rescue Service said the chopper went down some two to three km off the coast of the Arctic port of Barentsburg, according to reports.

Officials said the helicopter was carrying three passengers and a crew of five, The Independent reported.

“There is bad visibility. No wind, but a lot of waves,” Tore Hongset, who is leading the rescue coordination operation, was quoted as saying by Reuters. “We are physically looking for the helicopter.”

The chopper was headed to Barentsburg, a coal mining port, from Pyramiden, an abandoned Russian settlement.

The helicopter was reported missing by airport authorities around 3:35 pm (1335 GMT) as it was returning from Pyramiden, another former mining community that is now a tourist site.

The aircraft was confirmed to have come down about 10 minutes later, rescue services said.

Norway was afforded sovereignty of Svalbard, located around 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) from the North Pole, under the 1920 Treaty of Paris.

Nationals of all signatory states enjoy “equal liberty of access and entry” to Svalbard and its waters.

As a result, Russia operates a coal mine in Barentsburg, a community home to several hundred Russian and Ukrainian miners.

In 2008, another Mil Mi-8 crashed near Barentsburg, killing three of its nine occupants. Yet another crash near Pyramiden of the same type of helicopter left two dead in 1991.