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Many people fishing on Minnesota lake rescued from floating sheets of ice

At least 11 people were saved, but there are reports of many more.

At least 11 people were rescued from floating sheets of ice on a northern Minnesota lake on Tuesday.

The Beltrami County Sheriff's Office reports that it received "several" official and unofficial reports of people fishing on Upper Red Lake who became stranded on sheets of ice after strong southerly winds cause the "unsafe ice to separate from shore." 

Kelliher Fire & Rescue was able to save 11 people, but there were "reports of many others being rescued by local resorts," the sheriff's release says. 

"The exact number rescued is unknown to the Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office after it learned that rescue personnel were contacted directly to rescue people off the floating sheets of ice," the release adds. 

In addition, because the sheriff's office and 911 dispatch center were not called, it broke safety procedures, thus putting first responders in greater danger during the rescue operations. 

The early cold spell Minnesota has been in has created ice on Upper Red Lake, but thickness varies. 

"Ice is never 100 percent safe and it is absolutely unsafe this early in the winter fishing season," Sheriff Ernie Beitel said. 

All resorts in the Red Lake area have been contacted by authorities who have asked them to disallow fishing on unsafe ice, noting that allowing ice fishing at this stage of the year is putting the lives of first responders, who are volunteers, at risk. 

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