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Monday, April 1, 2013

'Ice floes' strand hundreds in Riga, Latvia

Heard of this word ‘Ice floes’ earlier ? ……. Ice floes are usually large flat free mass of floating sea ice. As the summer approaches, the rising temperature is felt in Chennai as people swelter and suffer. Everytime, we tend to say that the oncoming summer is likely to be more severe than earlier years.

Miles away from Chennai, is Riga ~ the capital, sea port  and largest city of Latvia. Latvia, officially the Republic of Latvia  is in Baltic region of Northern Europe bordered by Estonia, Lithuania, Russia and  BelarusRiga is on the Baltic sea.  Baltic Sea, an arm of the Atlantic Ocean opens to the North sea via channels and canals and often freezes.  Latvia gained its independence following the collapse of Sovier Union in 1991 and since moved to become part of EU.  Despite being under foreign rule for centuries, it has still managed to keep its unique language and rich cultural and especially musical traditions alive.

Latvia is in news as its rescue service said it had rescued more than 220 people who became stranded on large ice floes in two areas in the Gulf of Riga. Newspaper reports quoting the State fire and rescue Service spokeswoman, said boats, ships and helicopters were mobilised in the rescue operation after large sections of ice broke away from the shore and drifted into the gulf, pushed by warm southerly winds.  It is stated that 180 people were rescued in the town of Vakarbulli near the capital, Riga, as well as 41 in the resort region of Jurmala.

Rescue operations involving people stranded on ice floes occur frequently in the Baltic states, particularly with ice fishermen, who often stray far from the shore. The ice had drifted in strong winds about 4km (2.5 miles) from the shore by the end of the operation, it is said. Only one person needed medical attention, Latvian Public Radio said. Some earlier reports suggested that close 500 people had been left stranded aboard marooned in the drifting sheets of ice ~ that included fishermen and beach-goers.

Reports mention of two ice floes having drifted off the Latvian coast on Friday, trapping 220 people at sea for much of the afternoon. One of the floes broke away at one of Riga's most popular beaches, and another a few miles down the coast. A man trapped on the ice floe said there had been no panic and people had boarded boats to return to safety. About 180 people had been enjoying the Good Friday public holiday at Vakarbulli beach, when winds and high waves sent the stretch of ice they were on away from the shore into the Gulf of Riga.  A second ice floe broke away from the beach at Majori, leaving 41 people stranded. Latvia's VUGD rescue service warned earlier this week of the danger of ice floes being pushed out to sea, because of high winds and the start of the spring thaw.

We had heard of ‘Ice bergs’ – not much of Ice floes.  Ice floes consists of surface ice. Ice bergs are a huge piece of thick ice, the majority of which is under water. It's been said that as much as 80% of an ice berg is under water.

The commonly heard idiom ‘tip of the iceberg’ ~ figuratively means that only part of something that can be easily observed, but not the rest of it, which is hidden. (Referring to the fact that the majority of an iceberg is below the surface of the water.) The problems that you see here now are just the tip of the iceberg. There are numerous disasters waiting to happen !

It is known that Baltic sea has frozen some times ~ and the most recent instance occurred in 1987 when there was the most severe winter in Scandinavia; the ice at that time reportedly covered 400 000 km2. Whether it blows hot or cold elsewhere……… at Chennai, mercury is rising and it is very hot over here…….

With Regards – S. Sampathkumar
30th Mar 2013.


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