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Rescuers in Minnesota on Friday night saved 122 fishermen trapped on an ice floe which broke away and drifted from the shore.

Dramatic footage showed the crews on the ice in a blizzard, in the dark, coming to the aid of those who were trapped. 

Four people attempted to canoe to safety and fell in, but were dragged out of the icy water and warmed up in an ice hut. No one was seriously injured, Beltrami County sheriff’s office said. 

The alarm was raised at 4:57pm on Friday by a group ice-fishing on Upper Red Lake, 200 miles north east of the North Dakota city of Fargo and 100 miles south of the Canadian border.

Thirty feet of water separated the fishermen from the land, sheriffs said. 

Those on the ice were told to move towards Roger’s on Red campground, on the south east side of the lake, 15 miles north of Kelliher. On December 26, the Facebook page of the campground said there was a nine-foot crack in the ice near them, and no one was allowed beyond. But on December 28, they said the crack had closed up. 

Minnesota rescuers save 122 fishermen from an ice floe that detached from Upper Red Lake: Four fell into the freezing water trying to CANOE to land but were dragged to safety

Ice floes are pictured on Upper Red Lake, in northern Minnesota. A group of ice fishermen were trapped on the ice on Friday evening

Using boats and hovercraft, the rescuers reached the group at 6:40pm and first evacuated the four who had fallen in the water.

Over the course of an hour the rest were taken to dry land, and by 7:37pm all those trapped had been rescued, sheriffs said.

The incident is just the latest drama on the lake, where ice has not been as thick as usual. 

On December 17, 35 people had to be rescued from the lake by hovercraft in similar circumstances, and on Thursday, the sheriff of Beltrami County, Jason Riggs, warned people that the ice was unseasonably thin. 

‘Most years, the ice would be thick enough by now for vehicles and wheelhouses, and we’d be seeing a steady procession of them heading north,’ he said. 

‘But this year isn’t ‘most years,’ and the ice is changing constantly. 

‘It’s absolutely vital that anyone who heads out checks the thickness frequently, pays close attention to the weather, and has a plan in case the worst happens and they wind up in the water.’ 

On Thursday, the sheriffs responded to reports of two men falling through the ice on the lake on their ATV.

By the time the first responders got there, the men had reached the shore: they were cold but unharmed.

‘Recent rain and prolonged above freezing temperatures have caused ice conditions to deteriorate,’ the sheriffs wrote on Facebook. 

‘There are many ice houses across the region that are falling through the ice that are not able to be removed because recovery teams are reporting the ice is too weak. They are hopeful with colder weather coming up they can safely remove the property. 

‘If you choose to go on the ice, check the thickness frequently and know where you are traveling. Check with area resorts prior to going on the ice.’

Rescuers are pictured at work on December 17, when another 35 people were trapped on the ice

Rescuers are pictured at work on December 17, when another 35 people were trapped on the ice

First responders in yellow dry suits are seen on December 17 at Upper Red Lake

First responders in yellow dry suits are seen on December 17 at Upper Red Lake

One of the 35 people stranded on December 17 is seen being driven to safety

One of the 35 people stranded on December 17 is seen being driven to safety

Teams wearing dry suits and reflective vests are seen on December 17 being briefed about the rescue from Upper Red Lake

Teams wearing dry suits and reflective vests are seen on December 17 being briefed about the rescue from Upper Red Lake

At least three groups of fishermen have been rescued from the ice since December 17, the sheriffs wrote on Thursday. 

On December 19, a plane skidded onto the lake and nearly went into the water. 

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has issued multiple warnings about poor ice conditions statewide, telling the public that the recent combination of wind, rain and warm weather means ‘few, if any, areas of the state have the ice thickness necessary’ for ice fishing. 

‘Many of us love to spend the New Year’s holiday with family and friends on the ice,’ said Col. Rodmen Smith, director of the DNR Enforcement Division. 

‘But when it comes to ice conditions, the calendar doesn’t matter.’ 



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