Rescue teams responded after hundreds of people, including children, became stranded on two ice floes drifting off the coast of Latvia in the Gulf of Riga, according to multiple sources.
While initial reports estimated that 500 people were stranded aboard the drifting sheets of ice, State Fire and Rescue Service spokeswoman Viktorija Sembele said the number was closer to 220 people, the Associated Press reports.
Sembele confirmed that 180 people were rescued from one ice floe near Vakarbulli, while teams saved 41 people from another floating iceberg close to Jurmala.
According to the Voice of Russia, people became marooned after the large sections of ice broke away from the mainland.
"There are whole families drifting atop the ice floes that were just having a stroll [when the ice block broke off], not only fishermen," Latvian Defense Minister Artis Pabriks told the radio station. Typically, rescue teams are called in to save fisherman who wander too far from the coastland.
Using rescue boats and helicopters, emergency services battled strong winds and harsh weather conditions to retrieve the castaways from the large masses of ice floating away from Latvia's coast. At one point, as Russia Today notes, one of the ice floes was more than two miles offshore.
Local resident Kaspars Skrabans captured a photo of the rescue operation and posted it on Twitter:
Glābšanas darbi pilnā sparā, atlūzušsis gabals attālinās no krasta twitter.com/skrabans/statu…
— Kaspars Skrabans (@skrabans) March 29, 2013