Roughly 50 people rescued from lake after ice chunks break free

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Dozens of people had to be rescued from ice floes on a lake 60 miles north of Bemidji Monday morning.

The Beltrami County Sheriff's Office said in a news release that approximately 50 people were fishing on the east side of Upper Red Lake when strong wind and poor conditions caused existing cracks in the ice to widen and chunks of ice broke free.

Several agencies responded to the lake to help people off the ice by establishing a safe path from the lake to the shore, the release notes.

By 12:30 p.m., there were no people left stranded on the lake, the sheriff's office says. But officials will be in the area to check the shoreline and make sure people are aware of the dangers on the ice.

The sheriff's office says no one should be on the ice because of dangerous winds and fissures in the area, noting that a satellite photo shows the majority of the lake is open and there are "extreme cracks" in areas where "very light ice" remains.

This is the latest warning from Minnesota and North Dakota officials who said last week abnormally warm temperatures this month have “degraded ice conditions” making them unsafe to walk on.

Last year, five people died after breaking through the ice on Minnesota lakes. No fatalities have been reported this winter, but the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says there have been several emergency ice rescues in the past few weeks.

The DNR suggests staying off the ice until 4 inches of “new, clear ice is present.” DNR conservation officer Lt. Adam Block says it’s going to take “several consecutive days of below-freezing temperatures before enough solid ice has formed to support foot traffic, and even longer before snowmobilers should be on the ice.”

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