Latvia ice floes rescue on Gulf of Riga: More than 220 people saved after ice breaks

(CNN) -- More than 220 people have been rescued after two ice floes broke off from the Latvian coast and were blown into the Gulf of Riga, Latvian emergency services said Friday.

All 181 people on the larger floe near the capital city of Riga were removed by boat, and 42 people were rescued by helicopter from the smaller floe off the coast of Jurmala, a nearby seaside resort town.

One person remains on the floe off Jurmala because he refused to be rescued by helicopter and is waiting for a boat, emergency officials said.

Initial estimates that put the number of people caught up in the drama at more than 500 were inaccurate, they said.

The fire service earlier said that rough seas were complicating the rescue efforts by the Fire and Rescue Service, National Border Guard, Coast Guard and military officials.

Oil company manager Kaspars Skrabans said he was down at the beach by Jurmala with his family when he noticed that a crack had appeared in the ice extending from the shore out into the gulf.

He realized that nearly 50 people were on the ice that had become separated from the shore and being blown out to sea by the prevailing wind.

Some people were likely there to enjoy a walk on a sunny day, he told CNN, while others were ice fishers.

Temperatures were above freezing Friday in Riga, CNN forecaster Mari Ramos said. Ice is more likely to break off from shore as temperatures rise in spring.

CNN's Lonzo Cook contributed to this report.

 
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