Tanker carrying fuel arrives at iced-in Alaska town

Posted Jan. 15, 2012, at 9:06 p.m.

NOME, Alaska — Crews worked to build a path Sunday over a half-mile of Bering Sea ice for the final leg of a Russian tanker’s mission to deliver fuel to a town isolated amid one of the most severe Alaska winters in decades.

The tanker was moored roughly a half-mile from Nome’s harbor after a Coast Guard cutter cleared a path for it through hundreds of miles of a slow journey stalled by thick ice and strong ocean currents.

The tanker got into position Saturday night, and ice disturbed by its journey had to freeze again so workers could create some sort of roadway to lay a hose that will transfer 1.3 million gallons of fuel from the tanker to the harbor in Nome.

On Sunday, workers spent the morning walking around the vessel and checking the ice to make sure it was safe to lay the hose, which will take about four hours, said Jason Evans, board chairman of the Sitnasuak Native Corp.

With the tanker and the Coast Guard ice breaker sitting just offshore and poised to deliver the fuel, Evans said the bulk of the mission’s biggest challenges were now behind the crew.

Gunmen storm Iraq compound, kill 7 police

BAGHDAD — Iraqi security forces on Sunday battled gunmen who detonated a car bomb before blasting their way into a government compound and killing seven policemen in a one-time Sunni insurgent hotbed, police and local government officials said.

The three-hour standoff between Shiite-dominated security forces and suspected Sunni insurgents in the Anbar province capital of Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad, marked the first serious gunbattle for Iraqi forces against insurgents without American backup since the U.S. military completed its withdrawal last month.

Violence has surged since American troops left, and Iraq was plunged into a political crisis after Shiite-dominated government charged Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi with running death squads, issuing an arrest warrant against him just as the last U.S. soldiers crossed into neighboring Kuwait.

Doomed Russian Mars probe falls into the Pacific

MOSCOW — The defective Mars probe Fobos-Grunt fell into the Pacific Ocean on Sunday, Russian space agency officials said.

Russian space experts, monitoring the probe’s descent, kept adjusting its predicted trajectory, calculating that chances were very slim of it hitting an inhabited area. At one point it was expected to land to the west of the Argentinian city of Rosario.

The Fobos-Grunt probe had circled Earth in a decaying orbit, refusing to respond to ground commands since mid-December. Engines that were to propel it to Mars failed to ignite after its launch on Nov. 9.

More than 80 percent of the spaceship’s mass was rocket fuel, which was expected to burn up as it passed through the Earth’s atmosphere, but officials at national space agency Rocosmos had said 20 to 30 pieces of the probe could survive re-entry.

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