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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 August 2007, 19:22 GMT 20:22 UK
Britons injured by Arctic glacier
Arctic icebergs
Those injured had been on a sightseeing trip in the Arctic
A group of British holidaymakers were injured on a sightseeing ship in the Arctic when ice fell from a glacier.

A total of 17 British passengers were injured, two seriously, along with one crew member, off the Svalbard Islands, 500km (310 miles) north of Norway.

Ice is thought to have hit the deck of the luxury vessel and fallen into the sea close by causing the ship to list.

Four of the injured were flown to a hospital on the Norwegian mainland and 14 were taken to a local hospital.

The Russian crew member was among those taken to Tromso on the mainland. None of the injuries are life-threatening.

Passengers 'thrown'

A spokesman for University Hospital in Tromso said two Britons were transferred via helicopter to the emergency medical centre with a further two arriving five hours later.

A British tourist in his late 60s was among those being treated. The other two are believed to their late 40s and mid-50s.

Four others were being treated in hospital at Longyearbyen on the island of Spitsbergen in the Svalbard group.

Map of area

Ten others were treated for minor injuries at the hospital and are now back on the 216ft-long (66 metres) boat, which was able to dock at Longyearbyen.

Jan Tommervold, a deputy sheriff on Svalbard, said the Alexey Maryshev, a Russian research vessel converted into a luxury sightseeing boat, was hit by the ice late on Wednesday.

Police said the ship had sailed close to the towering Horn glacier at Svalbard for a better look when ice broke off and hit the vessel's side and deck, where some passengers had gathered.

'Absolutely terrifying'

"The Russian captain said they were tight into the Horn glacier when it calved," said another deputy, Petter Braathen.

He said blocks of ice crashed into the water near the ship causing it to be tossed back and forth by the waves "throwing" the passengers around.

The son of two passengers onboard the vessel, who wish to remain anonymous, said: "My parents and friends were on board as tourists. It sounded absolutely terrifying."

"It could have been so much worse - it's a miracle that no one was washed overboard."

"Thoughts and prayers are with those injured - it's a rotten end to a once-in-a-lifetime experience."

Embassy assisting

The injured Britons were among 50 passengers - all British - who had booked a trip through UK specialist tour company Discover The World.

A spokesman for the company said: "We understand that some of the smaller pieces of ice and water were washed onto the ship's deck and seven passengers were injured."

The company added: "We have done all possible to contact the next of kin of those passengers who were injured, and we will continue to keep in close contact with them."

We have been operating since 1982 and this is our first accident... so this is serious
Ko de Korte
Oceanwide Expeditions

The company said it was in regular contact with the British Embassy in Oslo which was assisting with the situation.

It also said the rest of the passengers had been happy to stay on the boat at Longyearbyen for the rest of their trip which ends on Sunday.

The ages of the Britons on board had ranged from around 40 up to the 70s.

Ko de Korte of Oceanwide Expeditions, the Dutch Company which operates the ship, said there were 72 people aboard.

"The company director is on his way," he said.

"We have been operating since 1982 and this is our first accident... so this is serious."

The Svalbard Islands, which are about 1,000km (620 miles) from the North Pole, are a popular tourist destination during the summer, with about 20 similar ships cruising the region in season.

Dramatic Arctic landscape where the incident happened

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