2 Americans, 18 others safe after being adrift at sea on chunk of ice

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Ben Brumfield

(CNN) — A tourist group that was trapped at sea on a drifting ice floe in the Canadian arctic is now safe, after their sheet of ice floated near land, allowing them to walk to shore, the Canadian coast guard said.

Helicopters were on their way early Wednesday to the far reaches of the Canadian arctic to rescue 20 tourists, including two Americans, adrift at sea on a chunk of ice.

The tourists, who were on an expedition, are in “fair” condition. There are no medical emergencies, a Canadian air force spokesman said.

They notified authorities as soon as they saw that the ice shelf they were on had broken free, said spokesman Steven Neta.

It will take the helicopters hours to reach their position on the ice floe off of Admiralty Inlet in the northernmost province of Nunavut. The air force hopes to hoist them on board by 5 a.m. ET.

A Royal Canadian Air Force plane was circling overhead to keep a watchful eye on the tourists. It had dropped three survival kits, which included satellite phones, rations and rubber rafts. Neta said the group will stay warm enough.

“They have the right clothing,” he said.

The tourists were camping out on the ice, when a four square mile sheet broke free early Tuesday and floated away from land.

“Ice breaking off is a very common thing at this time of year,” Neta said.

The floe has since drifted two miles away from land and appeared to be crumbling, Neta said. If it had fallen apart, the three rubber rafts would have been more than large enough to hold the whole group.

The cold should also not be too harsh. Even that far north, daytime highs in June often rise well above freezing.

CNN’s Kevin Conlon contributed to this report.

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