Russian helicopter with eight on board crashes off Arctic archipelago

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A Russian helicopter carrying eight has gone down at sea off the island of Spitsbergen several kilometers away from the Russian coalmining community of Barentsburg, according to the Norwegian rescue coordination center Twitter account, TASS reports.

"We've only been informed that it went down at sea".

The rescue service for northern Norway says the helicopter was en route to Barentsburg, Svalbard's second-largest settlement, from the Russian settlement of Pyramiden. "We don't know if it was a controlled landing", an emergency services spokesman told AFP.

A rescue helicopter and a frigate were rushed to the site.

Sputnik News agency quoted rescue service spokesman Tore Hongset as saying that two rescue boats and a helicopter were sent to the scene.

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"We are physically looking for the helicopter".

Svalbard is more than 800 kilometers (500 miles) north of Norway's mainland.

In 2008, another Mil Mi-8 crashed near Barentsburg, killing three of its nine occupants.

The fate of those on the helicopter was not immediately known.

Russian coal company Arktikugol runs the coal mine at Barentsburg, the main activity, which employs Russian and Ukrainian miners.